Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review Club: Bloodhype by Alan Dean Foster

(This is the March 2013 edition of Barrie Summy's book review club. For the complete list, click the icon at the bottom of this review.)

Sometimes, you're mother is really correct.

Bloodhype is Alan Dean Foster's second published novel. Published in 1973, it is part of his Humanx Commonwealth, his version of the future where humans and Thranx (insectoid aliens) have created an alliance and spread their influence across this arm of the galaxy. The enemy of the Commonwealth are the Aann, spacefaring reptiles that are not unlike the Klingons. Well, to be honest, the Thranx are not unlike the Vulcans, but there is much more to the universe than the inspirations from Star Trek.

The titular substance, bloodhype, is a drug that, according to the dust jacket, is instantly addictive. Vanished from the galaxy for years, an improbable pair is assigned the task of tracking down its reappearance on the planet Repler: a young human woman (Kitten Kai-sung) and a furry raccoon-like thing (take a look at it up on the cover). Naturally, they meet up with a captain of a shipping freighter, the latter being the one who inadvertently discovered the presence of bloodhype.

Their investigation runs alongside the sub-plot of the Vom, a creature that is like a ebony blob. In my mind's eye, I kept imagining a sentient oil slick. The Vom is stranded (imprisoned, actually) on a dead planet, and yet the Aann remove it to Repler. It doesn't take a genius to imagine that the Vom, bloodhype, the trio, and the bad guys will all mix and mingle with various results.

Another pair of characters also make an appearance: Pip and Flinx. Foster's first book, The Tar-Aiym Krang, is the debut appearance for his most famous creations, Flinx and his flying snake, Pip. I bring up this fact because Foster had originally intended to make Bloodhype a stand-alone novel set in the universe, but the publisher prompted the author to include Pip and Flinx in the novel. Foster complied, but the Pip and Flinx don't really act like the versions you see in the first book. Turns out, after Foster wrote twelve more books featuring his famous duo (fourteen total), that the events of Bloodhype occur in the eleventh position. Rather odd, if you ask me.

Bloodhype is a decent book, especially if you can wrap your head around the fact that it really isn't a Pip and Flinx Adventure, but an adventure in which the pair make an appearance. The Tar-Aiym Krang is a much better book (and is part of a trilogy along with Orphan Star and The End of the Matter).

The reason I bring up my mom is this. Foster was my first favorite SF author when I discovered the genre back in the late 70s. At that time, there were only four Pip and Flinx books: the  aforementioned trilogy and Bloodhype. One day (probably at the B. Dalton in Westwood Mall in Houston), I took Bloodhype to my mom. She had to review and clear books for me if they weren't YA. She read through it, cleared it for me, but told me that I probably wouldn't enjoy it. My young self certainly would not have enjoyed it--in fact, I never read it back then. My fortysomething self am glad I've read it--being the completist I am--but I doubt I'll ever re-read it (as I have the trilogy). Moms: they really know their children, huh?
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