The End of the Matter
Author: Alan Dean Foster
Release Date: 1977
“The End of the Matter” was the best installment so far in the Pip and Flinx series for several reasons. I’ve always thought Foster’s greatest strength as a writer is in creating alien races and cultures that are unique while maintaining an adventurous tone throughout that makes for a fun read. This novel features several of those cultures, as Flinx first visits the home world of his mini-dragon Pip, where the technology and ecosystem are very different from his own home world. There, he meets the two best characters to appear in an earlier novel of this series, the humanx adventurers from the Tar-Aiym Krang, and pursue a possible ancient weapon capable of saving several planets on the verge of destruction.
This being the fourth book written by Foster in the series, it’s clear he has a solid grasp on the mystery of Flinx’s parentage and the characters that will recur throughout. Mother Mastiff’s reduced role in the story probably for the best for that character, while Bran Tse-Mallory and Truzensuzex could become regulars for the rest of the series and I would enjoy it. Foster’s craziest creation in this novel is the alien Abalamahalamatandra (aka Ab), who I pictured as a lumbering, striped cross between a hippo and an ant eater, but with more eyes and appendages was also fun to try to puzzle out. I listened to this book as an audiobook, and the narrator used a singing, jingly way of delivering all of Ab’s rhymes that really felt in the spirit of Foster’s writing. The other character that is introduced is potential father figure Skua September, who provides more answers for Flinx’s past than the first three books combined, while still leaving plenty of questions unanswered for future books.
Although this was my favorite book through the first four in the series, there were a few points where my enjoyment was tested. The villains in this book seemed almost evil for evil sake, and definitely not as interesting as those found in “Orphan Star.” The science in this book was heavier than Foster typically writes with, specifically regarding the ultimate weapon belonging to an ancient alien race. That on its own is fine, but the high stakes of pulsars, black holes and super condensed collapsed star materials are higher stakes than really fit in a Pip and Flinx novel. These characters are at their best when they are solving issues on a planet’s surface with various characters and alien races. Trying to fight, say, a blackhole goes more to space adventurer and nothing we know of Flinx indicates he should be the one solving those issues.