I picked this book up at Downtown Books, Milwaukee’s premier used book store, last weekend. I felt like I needed some good throwaway fiction to intersperse amongst the serious fiction I read (and by “amongst” I mean before). So I bought a lot of Alan Dean Foster because I like Alan Dean Foster. The Spellsinger series, the movie novelizations, and so on.
At 179 pages, this book promised a quick read, which is important to a young man on a quest to read at least sixty books this year (and since this is book 29, I am ahead of schedule, but why wait until December to start taking shortcuts?). It was.
The book takes place on a heavily-forested world, where descendents of errant colonists have gone back to nature to survive. The tribe thinks a hunter named Born a trifle mad, or perhaps a trifle smart; he’s brave in an often incautious way. So when a strange metal demon falls from the sky, Born leads a troop to view it. When the rest of the group flees, only Born remains to discover the strange giant people within it. They tell him fantastic things and enlist his aid in returning to their station.
Foster does a marvelous job engrossing the reader in a strange and wonder-filled world. Although the setting is fantastic, Foster introduces the character, the environment, and the social structures well. That reflects what’s best about good sci-fi, and unfortunately about all that’s good about this book. Because the plot’s really a puffed up short story or novella, and the world in which it is set ultimately resolves into a Gaia-humping, collective-consciousness-espousing piece of mid 1970s drivel. Of course, that’s my visceral reaction to my disappointment. The texture and the colors are so well-executed that I wish the whole picture depicted something better.
I mean, I paid three whole dollars for it.