(Del Rey, $24.95, 272 pages, hardback; November 2003.)
I began reading science fiction around the age Have Space Suit, Will
Travel. I loved that story and went on to read much of Heinlein's
work. I was a cautious reader back then and would not easily branch
out from my secure position of enjoying Heinlein. However, the next
author to catch hold of me for a short time was Alan Dean Foster, and
the book that caught me was For Love of Mother-Not. It is the
first of the Pip and Flinx adventures and, for a youth, it was perfect.
ten when a friend introduced me to Heinlein's
Philip Lynx, known as Flinx, is a wonderful character -- young, adventurous,
talented, imaginative, and an empathic telepath who is destined to save
the universe. His pet minidrag, Pip, is devoted and deadly -- a protector
and a friend. Together they seek out both Flinx's father and a way to
avert the impending doom of the galaxy.
The stories of this series always have been fun, light romps from one
alien world to another. They never so much push the boundaries of sf
as play within its more defined parameters. There are heroes and villains
and even damsels in distress, and it all blends into a satisfying albeit
"Why shouldn't it be so?" the youth within me cries out, bristling
at the adult subtext of the above sentence. If I were to read the latest
incarnation of a Hardy Boys Mystery, I would be outraged if the boys
were not their usual selves. Some series are meant to be stagnant because,
though the original readers grow up, new ones arrive with the youthful
eyes that the older readers have lost.
And what fantastic eyes those are. More than any other type of audience,
children suspend their disbelief with less insistence and less inhibition.
I remember watching Speed Racer, Starblazers or the infinitely
horrid animated version of Star Trek. These cartoons were little
more than snapshots cut into pieces and moved around -- a bizarre, cheap
form of animation (if we use the word quite loosely). The point is,
that like many other children, I loved those shows. I accepted the little
given me and permitted my imagination to fill in the rest. In reading,
I would do the same thing whether it was Heinlein, Foster or, a little
later, Asimov. Once, I read a version of King Kong that astounded
me. I have no doubt that were I to get hold of that novel again, I would
be shocked at how little effort was put into it.
This is not to say that Flinx's Folly is shallow or worthless
or even a bizarre, cheap creation. In fact, it's a solid work that holds
all the elements I loved as a child. It's got adventure, aliens and
a fast plot that doesn't slow down for the mushy stuff. Foster's book
delivers what it promises, and any fan of this series will enjoy this
However, if you have never read a Pip and Flinx adventure, do not start
with this one. Flinx's Folly reads more like the preface to a
larger story that will be coming in the next few years (and books) than
a complete novel in itself. It's about the beginnings of things and
leaves us itching for more. The storyline that is designed to hold up
as the main plot (that of a jealous lover whose psychopathic tendencies
turn his focus onto killing Flinx and the woman they both desire) is
just an excuse to further the series' main arc. It's as if Foster knew
this storyline was ultimately unimportant, so he relied on those youthful
eyes to ride it out. It's a fun ride, but not the best way to begin.
For the young readers out there, I encourage you to start this series
from the beginning, and I suspect you'll love this latest incarnation
of the story when you read it in context. If you're equipped with an
intimate understanding of the characters (and a lot of old friends return
in this one), the substories in Flinx's Folly will come to life.
Moments like the one early on in which Flinx displays angst over all
his years of being followed, chased, and targeted take on greater depth
when seen as part of the whole.
This is a terrific series for young adults. I suspect that if Tor's
recent foray into the YA market succeeds, we will see all of Pip and
Flinx's adventure repackaged for the audience that is best suited to
appreciate them. Del Rey would be crazy not to do this.
Review by Stuart Jaffe.
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