This novel certainly doesn’t represent the best of Alan Dean Foster’s work, but it’s an amusing book that hearkens back to the earlier days of science fiction, back when quick, short adventures in Del Ray editions shared a wild story.
When an automated plant that produces AI components becomes accidentally interested in finding higher intelligence than man, it begins building its quest into toasters, lawn care equipment, and other common tools it provides. Meanwhile, on Earth, which has become a park retirement community for residents of the outer worlds, five codgers of the title find an ancient ship of vast proportions which proves that a higher power exists. But what kind of higher power, and what should the oldsters do now that they’re in orbit with the armadas of the different human confederations showing up?
Like the last Foster novel I read, this one represents a short story run long. That’s part of the charm of this type of book, but unfortunately, Foster doesn’t weave the disparate plotlines together well, and some portions of the book run on too long to make the necessary word count for a novel. I think Foster might have found himself bogged down in the writing of the novel; I can even see the point where he followed Raymond Chandler’s advice and had a man walk through the door with a gun. Still, you have to admire a novel that combines a universe-altering cheese sandwich, writing advice from Raymond Chandler, and a hint at the Lovecraft mythos? The book was worth the price, $2.95 at Downtown Books in Milwaukee.
Confession: Gentle readers, given the range and the depth of the titles published with the Alan Dean Foster, particularly his penchant for novelizing movies (hey, I liked Outland!), I had the subtle doubt creep into my mind that Alan Dean Foster might actually be a name owned by a publishing house under which numerous people wrote over the period of the last three decades. Apparently, that is not so.