cover image Phylogenesis


Alan Dean Foster. Del Rey Books, $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-345-41862-3

Some centuries in the future come the earliest days of contact between humans and the insect-like thranx. Both species carefully try to keep contact in the hands of approved experts, but the thranx have slipped a covert base into the Amazon rain forest. Desvendapur, a thranx poet obsessed with finding new sources of inspiration through contact with humans, escapes from this base into the jungle. There he encounters Cheelo Montoya, a small-time gangster fleeing a mugging that turned into a murder, a man with no poetry in his soul but abundant street smarts. Their initial misunderstandings and suspicion give way to cooperation, and then to friendship after the two survive an encounter with deadly poachers. The author of more than 40 novels, Foster does a fine job with his misfit heroes and even with his minor characters (such as the reptilian AAnn). He shows his usual mastery of narrative pacing and slips in a great deal of wry wit (the sexiness of a female thranx depends on the slenderness of her ovipositors). The novel will be a treat for those who have followed Foster's tales of the Humanx Commonwealth, to which this is a kind of prelude and which began way back in 1972 with The Tar-Aiym Krang, and can also serve as a splendid introduction to both the Commonwealth and its creator. (June)