Friday, January 18, 2008

Trouble Magnet by Alan Dean Foster

Pip & Flinx Walk on the Dark Side

One of Alan Dean Foster's abiding creations is the telepathic orphan Flinx and his Alaspin mini-drag pal, Pip. In Trouble Magnet, Flinx continues the search he began in Running from the Diety, looking for a Tar-Aiym weapon powerful enough to defeat the dark forces headed for the Humanx Commonwealth from the depths of space.

Don't worry if the foregoing doesn't explain anything — it just means you haven't encountered this redoubtable pair before, but you don't need any prior knowledge to enjoy this novel. Suffice to say that Flinx has the power to read minds, and his flying pet has the power to kill those who threaten him.

Flinx is depressed, and wondering why he should sacrifice his time and efforts to save a society he can barely tolerate, when he could be sipping Margeritas beside the pool with his girl-friend, somewhat like a Marine musing why he is watching for IEDs in Baghdad instead of Wii Bowling back home in his parent's basement.

He diverts his journey to visit Las Vegas — sorry, make that the planet Visaria, another known sinkhole of depravity — to see if he can find a spark of human decency to persuade him that humanity is worth the effort. He's obviously loading the dice by choosing this particular place for his search (although Foster belabors the point again and again in case the reader missed it.) What he finds is a teenage thug named Subar engaged in a struggle with a pair of thranx, and a lively mystery. Why did the rescuing officers shoot at all of them, not waiting to discover who was assailant and who was victim?

Led to aid Subar in his escape by a hint of familiar motives and patterns of thought, Flinx sees a reflection of the young thief he was as he grew up. Will Subar provide the motivation for Flinx to continue his quest to save society? Or perhaps he is just another diversion that Flinx has seized upon, in his desire not to continue.

As Flinx is drawn deeper into the doings of Subar's gang, he learns something that further derails his determination to find the weapon that will save Humanx society: a hint of who is father is, and where to find him. Judging by the title of the next Pip & Flinx adventure, Patrimony, I guess the Commonwealth will be waiting a bit longer for the Tar-Aiym super-weapon.

As with all Foster's Pip & Flinx novels, this is a light, enjoyable read, nothing too demanding. You can even enjoy a Margerita by the pool as you read.