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Into the Thinking Kingdoms
Book Two of the Journeys of the Catechist

Alan Dean Foster
Warner Aspect Books, 376 pages

Keith Parkinson
Into the Thinking Kingdoms
Alan Dean Foster
Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946 and was raised in Los Angeles. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA in 1968-69 and then spent two years as a copywriter for an advertising and public relations firm in Studio City, CA.

His first sale as a writer was a long Lovecraftian letter, purchased by August Derleth for the bi-annual magazine The Arkham Collector. His first novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972. Many, many novels followed. Alan Dean Foster's correspondence and manuscripts are in the Special Collection of the Hayden Library of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Foster and his wife live in Prescott, Arizona.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Carnivores of Light and Darkness
Alan Dean Foster Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

Let me begin by expressing my frustration at the modern publishing trend of stretching stories out into multiple books. What ever happened to books that are complete in themselves? It seems like almost every new book I pick up is the beginning of yet another trilogy. I had great hope that Journeys of the Catechist would conclude with this volume, but alas, that was not meant to be. Foster is supposed to wrap up the trilogy with A Triumph of Souls next year. I have the feeling he's going to have to pack a lot into the last book to finish up the story in a satisfying way.

Into the Thinking Kingdoms, sequel to Carnivores of Light and Darkness, picks up where the first book left off. Ehomba, a simple herdsman from a small village, has had an obligation placed upon him by a dying man. He must rescue the Visioness Themaryl, the dying man's intended, from the evil Hymneth the Possessed. Here, Ehomba and his two companions, the swordsman Simna ibn Sind and the giant feline Ahlitah, continue on their journey.

Unlike the Changing Lands in Carnivores of Light and Dark, the trio now travels across "civilized" lands. Their travels are no less adventurous, however. They must deal with a herd of insane horses, a valley of hostile flowers and a shepherd with a most unusual dog. When they reach the first of the many small kingdoms of the civilized lands, they are almost immediately arrested for the crime of improper contemplation. It seems that the kingdom of Tethspraih only allows thinking in alignment with the approved general mode of thought of Tethspraih ("Think like we tell you to think or else…").

The story follows the same pattern as Carnivores of Light and Darkness. The trio encounters a series of trials or problems as they travel. Each time Ehomba uses a special power or an item from his village to rescue them. He continually claims to be only a simple herdsman, to the disbelief of his comrades. Simna and Ahlitah are convinced they are travelling with a powerful sorcerer.

Into the Thinking Kingdoms advances Ehomba's story, though not as much as I would have liked. While a faithful sequel to Carnivores of Light and Dark, it's not a very exciting one. We're no closer to understanding Ehomba's true nature or that of his opponent, Hymneth the Possessed. Who is the Visioness Themaryl? Why does Hymneth want to possess her? There are a few hints about Hymneth -- he gets a whole 15 pages at the beginning of the book, then nothing more.

Foster does show us a side of Ehomba we haven't seen before, the side of him that resents the obligation placed upon him which causes him to be separated from his wife and children. As the story progresses he grows more and more impatient with the length of the journey and their seeming lack of progress (which neatly parallels similar frustrations of the reader!). There is also a growing uncertainty regarding the success of Ehomba's mission as yet another seer predicts that his quest will end in defeat and death.

So what's the final verdict? There's no doubt that Alan Dean Foster is a master storyteller. I finished Into the Thinking Kingdoms in a single sitting. The story draws you in and is very easy reading. The book is naturally broken up into a series of challenges and adventures, each itself a story. But I can't really recommend that you rush out and read it. As with many trilogies, the middle book is often filler and I'm afraid Into the Thinking Kingdoms falls into that category. It's definitely not meant to stand on its own, as Foster gives few hints to readers of what happened in the previous book. If you haven't read Carnivores of Light and Darkness, you may enjoy the book, but you will certainly miss a lot of the finer points. It may be worth waiting until the final book arrives so that you can finish the trilogy all at once.

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy àla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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