What would make anyone visit a Sioux reservation during a North Dakota winter? Perhaps a trip on a star gate that could take a person to Eden? Or maybe a space station is more one’s style. There are other destinations to choose, but are any of them safe?
In Jack McDevitt’s “Thunderbird,” Brad Hollister is the morning radio talk show host for the local station KLYM. He’s well aware of the star gate found on the Sioux reservation near Devil’s Lake. In fact, it is the topic of conversation every single day during his radio show, “Grand Forks Live.” He doesn’t mind the discussion; it’s been great for the station. Talk of aliens, how the star gate, called the Roundhouse, has been around for more than 10 thousand years, and how it began to glow green: All make for great talk show fodder.
However, he is not a fan of the frequent suggestions that he should join one of the excursions to Eden. But with a little push, he changes his mind.
The first visit Brad makes to the Roundhouse allows him to watch one expedition return from Eden and another group leave. He knows the routine from television, but to see it in person is a wonder.
He watches the first person step onto the grid: “The cloud appeared and enveloped Paula. Then it faded, and she was gone.”
Brad watches as the rest of the crew from this mission each step onto the grid and, in a haze, disappear. After the spectacle, he steps out of the Roundhouse into the cold air of North Dakota and wonders, “What kind of technology was able to keep the place warm after thousands of years?”
Organizing these travels to other galaxies is Chairman Walker, head of the Sioux reservation. It sounds like a glamourous job, but being caught between differing sides of public opinion and not-so-subtle suggestions from the President of the United States, while also figuring out what’s best for his Sioux tribe is more stressful than anything else. So far, he counts himself lucky that no serious incidents have occurred.
There is quite an assortment of characters in this small North Dakota town, and at the rate they enter the book, it is occasionally difficult to keep track. The sometimes brief, sometimes non-existent introductory description of the characters does not detract from the storyline, however. The reader is able to learn about the characters over time, much the way one learns about a new friend.
“Thunderbird” is a sci-fi adventure just waiting to be taken. This title can easily be read as a stand-alone book, or as part two of the “Ancient Shores” series. The writing itself could use some polishing and variation, but the overall storyline is engaging.