cover image Howling Stones

Howling Stones

Alan Dean Foster. Del Rey Books, $22.5 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38375-4

Foster's latest novel to be set in the Humanx Commonwealth (For Love of Mother-Not, etc.), ruled jointly by humans and the insectoid Thranx, is only standard SF. The novel features a run-of-the-mill protagonist, a shy xenologist named Pulickel Tomochelor, who is sent to the planet Senrisan to negotiate mineral rights with the natives. Arrayed against Pulickel is a standard antagonist, the reptilian AAnn Empire, and allied with him is a stock female companion, the luscious Fawn Seaforth. Embedded in the story is a secret, standard as well, the stones of the title, which are actually long-lost technology that must be kept from the AAnn. The plot that emerges from these familiar elements runs to the predictable, and the pacing is slowed by long descriptive passages. While not his worst work-that distinction belongs to his frequent novelizations, like The Dig-this is no match for Into the Out Of and other fine novels Foster has produced in his amazingly prolific career. (Feb.)