Author: Alan Dean Foster
The twelfth book in the Pip and Flinx series finds Flinx stalling rather than continuing on his quest of saving the galaxy. Rather than risk his life to possibly complete his task of repulsing the massive evil force set to arrive in our Galaxy in somewhere from a hundred to a thousand years, Flinx decides to take a pit stop to the planet of Visaria. Visaria is a planet ripe with crime. Law enforcement is corrupt. Knowing this, Flinx decides to stop to put some thought into the question of whether humanity is worth sacrificing his own future and possibly even his life to save?
Shortly after arriving on the planet, Flinx becomes involved with a young criminal named Subar who reminds Flinx of himself. Subar has a gang of cohorts who end up stealing several priceless artifacts of the ancestral home world and getting one of the most dangerous crime lords on the planet seeking revenge. (This ancestral home world is Earth, and the artifacts are things like books, plants, and fast food restaurant disposable cups. I liked how a lot of the stuff referenced were artifacts for the characters in the book but would still be from the future of the reader.) When Subar’s friends start getting captured or killed, he turns to Flinx to seek help or protection.
In many ways, Trouble Magnet reminded me of the better books in Terry Goodkind’s Legend of the Seeker series. Like those books, by this point in the series we have a protagonist who has powers that can get him out of any situation, however the abilities are unreliable and tend to leave him at the worst times. When they do reappear, it is in so late and spectacular a fashion that it can feel like a cheat code. As the story builds, Foster has also relied on deus ex machina a few times in the series now, and that continued here in Trouble Magnet. Even with those complaints, this was the rare book in the Pip & Flinx series where the supporting characters were more interesting than the stars.
More than anything other aspect of the book, I enjoyed reading about Subar’s crew. Everything from plotting their heist, to executing it, to celebrating and having everything go south afterwards kept my interest. The dynamics between the characters were fun too, particularly with Subar’s best girlfriend and the sexy criminal Subar was always pining for. Unlike the characters Pip & Flinx, the group of young criminals are subject to things like death or turning into villains over the course of a random book in the middle of the series.
Overall this was one of the better books in the series except for a few things that made me groan. The climactic encounter between good and bad guys would have been more satisfying with literally any other ending than the one Foster utilizes. Even having read all the other books, and even being very familiar with the last minute entrants into the fray, their timing and capabilities still seemed way too fortuitous and convenient to provide a satisfying resolution. Likewise, the minuscule chance that in all of the Commonwealth that Flinx would land in the one city in the one planet that had somebody reviewing video that would provide the key clue to his ancestry was another coincidence too far.