Category: Pip & Flinx

“Mid-Flinx” by Alan Dean Foster Review

Mid-Flinx

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Release Date: 1995

Midflinx

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.

3-star

“Flinx in Flux” (Pip & Flinx #6) by Alan Dean Foster Review

flinx

Flinx in Flux

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Release Date: 1988

“Flinx in Flux” was my favorite entry in the series until the last 1/8 of the book when it kind of ran off the rails towards some fairly standard science fiction cliches which look to have major implications on the overall story arc going forward. What started off simply enough, about Flinx and his mini-dragons Pip and Scrap finding an unconscious, badly beaten girl on one of his intergalactic travels, resulted in taking a trip to a classic Alan Dean Foster created alien world, with unique ecosystem and intelligent life unlike any I’d ever imagined. The simple story, Flinx falling for Clarity, and Clarity learning more about Flinx was engrossing and the villains (ecoterrorists) had a simple motivation that made sense for them but made them seem real enough.

As Flinx and Clarity encountered the planet of underground tunnels and absolute darkness, I was enjoying every moment of this story. The underground fauna was described in vivid detail that reminded me of something out of Alien or Pitch Black. The attempt of characters to navigate the underground tunnels was the type of adventure that Foster does as well as anybody since early Heinlein. Up until that plot was resolved I had zero complaints about this book.

The evil corporate entity and other shadows that emerge from the woodwork in the final act felt like evil characters straight out of a C-rate pulp novel. The big payoff is a new quest for Flinx that seems much bigger (and less interesting) than the general exploring he’s been doing from book to book thus far. At this point I hope Clarity and Scrap join the cast of recurring characters and keep the story grounded in the more relationship driven storylines.

4-star

“The End of the Matter” (Pip & Flinx #4) by Alan Dean Foster Review

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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.

5-star

“Orphan Star” (Pip & Flinx #3) by Alan Dean Foster Review

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Orphan Star

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Release Date: 1977

** spoiler alert ** The main plot of the third book in the Pip and Flinx series is pretty standard for the first half, as Flinx attempts to learn about his parents and narrowly escaped a few deadly situations through the help of his dragon Pip. As soon as the book shifts to a new planet quarantined under church edict the story switches to classic Alan Dean Foster alien story time.

The book ties in nicely to the events of The Tar-Aiym Krang, while also setting up future novels through the introduction of a major villain and a resourceful girl with abilities similar to Flinx. The ethical questions posed by teaching a sentient alien race about civilization (and more to the point, war) kept me enthralled for the entire last third of the book.

5-star

 

“The Tar-Aiym Krang” (Pip & Flinx #1) by Alan Dean Foster Review

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The Tar-Aiym Krang

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Release Date: 1972

The first Pip and Flinx book published is definitely benefitted by reading prequel “For Lover of Mother Not” first. This briskly paced story about a search for a possible musical instrument from an extinct civilization doesn’t spend too much time going into any of the characters in much depth. With only a few exceptions, Flinx is a reactive character through the story.

On the plus side, the story is set up in the Humanx Commonwealth, a really interesting science fiction future with Human and Bug symbiotic relationships and use of computers much more plausible than the 1970’s publication date would suggest. The background info shared on this world was my favorite part of the read. Alan Dean Foster is a wizard at pulling great scifi surprises out of thin air and the true purpose of the Krang follows suit nicely.

The one thing that does really date this novel was the name of the spaceship, “Gloryhole” which has of course taken on a different connotation in recent years.

3-star

“For Love of Mother-Not” (Pip & Flinx #5) by Alan Dean Foster Review

pip

For Love of Mother-Not

Author: Alan Dean Foster

Release Date: 1983

The first (chronological) book in the Pip and Flinx series is a briskly paced story with likable main characters and flat/unpleasant supporting characters. The main character (Flinx) is interesting enough, and his flying snake adds some fun but the villains are cardboard and aside from a girl that helps the pair out the good guys aren’t much better. Mother Mastiff in particular was cringeworthy at the end, unable to impart even the half truths to keep her adopted son safe from two separate groups that are hunting him.

The discovery of both Pip and Flinx’s abilities as well as a great sequence on a lake both made this worth reading. Foster also makes up for under developed characters with an abundance on interesting alien life forms.

3-star