Author: Alan Dean Foster
Release Date: 1995
Midworld is one of my favorite Alan Dean Foster books, so I was very much looking forward to Pip and Flinx visiting the planet described in that book. For those not familiar, this unnamed planet features the most complex ecosystem in the Humanx Commonwealth. The planet is covered in various trees and planets that are 400+ meters tall with entire different miniature ecosystems above the trees and throughout depending on how high or low you go. In addition to that there are hybrid plant/animal creatures and the most deadly camouflaged organisms imaginable. What a perfect setting to drop our empathic young hero and his deadly mini-dragon.
For the alien world setting, this book absolutely delivered. It also managed to advance the plot of the overall series down that path I was worried about in the previous book without getting too ridiculous. The problems with this book all stem from the reason for visiting and internal story of Mid-Flinx. Flinx find himself in a plot straight out of Jack Reacher. He is passing through town when a dastardly villain obsesses on him for no good reason and the result is a game of cat and mouse that ends in death. Here the villain is fixated on taking Pip into his own private zoo and pursues Flinx all the way to Midworld to take it. Normally Flinx would have a handy sixth sense to keep villains from creeping up on him but in this book it is conveniently available only to allow for maximum dramatic effect.
The book takes a second ridiculous turn as serendipity and surprises coincide with the arrival of two additional alien races in pursuit of Flinx. Here Foster prefers setting up impossible situations for Flinx that end in escape by the perfectly timed rescued of off page characters. The first instance of this involves a sniper shot, but was explained in a satisfactory though not all that convincing manner. The second instance with falling mushrooms explanation does not hold up to scrutiny as the location was selected by the bad guys and not the heroes. The final save (the Thranx) made sense but also served to show how ridiculous the string or Flinx’s pursuers was.
In a darker series this string of events could have culminated in some very exciting or devastating consequences, but much of the tension is removed by Flinx’s guides being a woman and two children. The lack of real stakes, frequent coincidences and one note villains keep this from being one of the better entries in the series, despite the awesome setting for a science fiction book.