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The Sum of Her Parts
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey, 304 pages

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.

Alan Dean Foster Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Human Blend
SF Site Review: Flinx Transcendent
SF Site Review: Star Trek, The Animated Series: Logs Nine and Ten
SF Site Review: Star Trek, The Animated Series: Logs Seven and Eight
SF Site Review: Star Trek, The Animated Series: Logs Five and Six
SF Site Review: Star Trek, The Animated Series: Logs Three and Four
SF Site Review: Star Trek, The Animated Series: Logs One and Two
SF Site Review: The Light-Years Beneath My Feet
SF Site Review: Sliding Scales
SF Site Review: Flinx's Folly
SF Site Review: The Mocking Program
SF Site Review: Dinotopia Lost
SF Site Review: Star Wars: The Approaching Storm
SF Site Review: Interlopers
SF Site Review: Phylogenesis
SF Site Review: Into the Thinking Kingdoms
SF Site Review: Carnivores of Light and Darkness

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

The Sum of Her Parts When I first read SF, I snubbed novelizations, thinking, why can't they write their own stuff? Surely, I wasn't alone in thinking this. Greg Bear -- brilliant extrapolator, author, and Clarion West mentor -- changed my mind. He said writers often do work-for-hire to increase interest in their own novels. Later, Kevin J. Anderson, whose Saga of Seven Suns shows inventive panache, pointed out that sales of Dune, one of the great novels in the genre, increased after he and Brian Herbert started writing in that universe.

Upon reading the blurb about Alan Dean Foster's new series, The Tipping Point Trilogy, I kicked my old prejudices to the curb and hitched a ride on the genetic manipulation express. This series reads like William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, or Charles Stross but inventively toned down, which should appeal to casual readers of the genre who sometimes feel burdened by a lot of unfamiliar jargon invented to estrange the future.

The Tipping Point Trilogy opens with Whispr, a street thief who is genetically modified or "melded" to be so thin he can slip into places that cops can't follow. Whispr riffles old guys with pacemakers and artificial hearts; that is, he stops their hearts so that he can steal whatever loot he can. When picking over one victim, he encounters a mysterious thread that represents a higher state of technology than he's seen. Fleeing cops who tagged him with trackers, Whispr seeks the aid of an unmodified doctor, Ingrid. Ingrid relents to provide treatment and joins Whispr to find out what kind of technology created the thread and what it's used for. Meanwhile, a deadly and deceptively elderly assassin is hired to track them down from a flooded Savannah, Georgia to South Africa where they intend to infiltrate a SEAC (dubbed SICK) research facility to dig deeper into the mysterious thread.

In the trilogy's finale, The Sum of Her Parts, the pair run into a "meld," a human gene-modified for the desert, complete with a heavy water storage sack on his back. He wants a cut on their diamond haul, but Ingrid and Whispr aren't hunting diamonds. They believe they lose him; yet unbeknownst to them he dogs their trail. Later, after they've dodged searcher drones patrolling the area outside the SICK facility, a four-armed anti-corporation Meld, living and prospecting in this forbidden zone, accosts Ingrid and Whispr.

Meanwhile, Molé, the hired assassin sniffs out their trail to southern Africa where he captures an assassin trio who has the information that will help him locate Ingrid and Whispr. Molé demonstrates his ruthless skills as he dispassionately extricates what he needs and dispatches the trio.

Along the way to the research facility, they encounter poisonous spiders, snakes, harsh desert conditions, flash desert floods, and intelligent meerkats with blowguns. Probably the most thrilling section is when they enter the facility and approach what they think they're looking for.

Although Whispr isn't a character the typical reader loves, you can sympathize with him. His love of Ingrid may not spark reader interest, yet the reader does feel for the character's bittersweet outcome. The concept of the thread may put off readers who want the mystery to slowly unravel. In fact, the thread could be considered somewhat of a MacGuffin. However, it and the genetic modification tie in well together with the thematic conclusion, ringing in some potent resonance. Possibly, the trilogy would have had greater impact as a slimmer stand-alone, but it retains pleasure, as is.

When Foster riffs on the future with its possible genetic enhancements in a post-glacier-melt world, he's at his most fascinating. Intelligent, poisoned-porcupine-quill-shooting meerkats, anyone? A genetically modified human with his version of a camel's hump to store water? It's a fun ride for those seeking an SF adventure into a gene-mod future.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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