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Phylogenesis - Book One of the Founding of the Commonwealth

by Alan Dean Foster

(Del Rey, US$24, 327 pages, hardback, June 1999.)

Rating: "A/A-": a nicely-done human-thranx adventure. Good old-fashioned SF -- light and fun.

Desvendapur is a misfit, a third-rate professional poet on the backwater colony world of Willow-Wane. Hearing a rumor of a secret alien colony, on impulse he sneaks into it and forges a new identity, hoping the weird, smelly "humans" will inspire him, and jump-start his stalled artistic career. Inspiration he gets, plus exotic travel, but at a very high price....

Cheelo Montoya is a ninloco, a small-time Tico hood on the lam from a mugging that went sour. He's hiding out in the Peruvian Reserva Amazonia, waiting for the heat to die down. He falls out of his stolen boat, which chugs on out-of-sight, on autopilot. Now he's hiding in a tree, after an unfortunate encounter with a column of army ants, when this giant bug walks by....

Des and Cheelo make a wary acquaintance, and then an uncertain partnership against the hazards of the jungle: jaguars, anacondas, poachers.... and unwittingly advance the budding Human-Thranx alliance. But the wily reptilian AAnn have an idea of how to throw a spanner in the works. Tune in next time for -- Book Two, Dirge! (Should be out RSN -- it's been turned in to the publisher.)

This is a very entertaining book -- light, fun, and action-packed, with clever twists and likeable characters. A lot like the good old stuff we read and loved when we were fourteen. And, for that matter, like earlier ADF books I've liked -- I'd gotten out of the habit of reading Foster, after several so-so books (and the appropriately-titled "The Damned" trilogy), so I'm very pleased to see him back at the top of his form. Familiarity with earlier Humanx Commonwealth books is helpful but certainly not required -- and, unlike many such books, Phylogenesis comes to a satisfying closure. If you happen to be new to Foster, or were disappointed before, this is a good chance to see him at his best. Fluff, but good fluff.

Review by Peter D Tillman; More of Peter D Tillman's reviews can be found at: SF Site and Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more!

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