Cliffhanger-disaster yarn, again involving archeology and alien contact, from the author of Infinity Beach (2000), etc., this one set in the same universe as The Engines of God (1994), with some of the characters in common. In 2204, Randall Nightingale's crew explores an alien planet and is swiftly decimated by the vicious local wildlife. Twenty years later, traces of an ancient civilization are discovered. Unfortunately, the planet, Deepsix, will be destroyed in two weeks as it smashes into a rogue gas giant. The Academy immediately orders an exploration. Starship pilot and sometime archeologist Priscilla Hutchins finds herself piloting a shuttle down to the surface to probe the ruins. Nightingale, reluctantly, is also aboard, along with various technicians; a second shuttle brings blowhard journalist Gregory MacAllister. As they explore a ruined tower and its seeming medieval-like technology, an earthquake triggered by the impending planetary collision wrecks both shuttles. No other landers are available—the numerous starships in orbit can't land, and big business interests sabotage another possible rescue attempt. So the survivors must trek across hundreds of miles of predator-infested planet to reach the shuttle abandoned by Nightingale's original exploration party, with no guarantee it'll be able to take off. And as Deepsix approaches its doom, storms grow more powerful, tides rise, and earthquakes and volcanoes rock the surface. Meanwhile, the orbiting starships discover the remnants of a SkyHook orbiting the planet, but how can it help?
The tension hums and twangs throughout; add on the intriguing exploration of an ancient alien civilization, and the life-sized characters: another triumph for the splendid McDevitt.