I don’t think Alan Dean Foster gets the respect he deserves. He’s an enormously gifted and prolific author who’s produced some of the most ambitious and successful series on the market, including the seventeen novels in the Pip & Flinx series (which my son read and re-read, awaiting each new volume anxiously), the 13 books of the Humanx Commonwealth, beginning with Nor Crystal Tears (1982), the 8 volumes of the Spellsinger saga, and many others. (My personal favorite Alan Dean Foster novel is probably Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (1978), one of his three Star Wars novels, but don’t hold that against me.)
For those of you looking for something maybe a little less ambitious and a little more manageable, Foster has also written several fine standalone trilogies, including Icerigger, The Founding of the Commonwealth, The Damned, and The Tipping Point. Perhaps his most highly regarded fantasy trilogy is Journeys of the Catechist, comprised of three novels published between 1998-2000 by Warner Aspect, all with covers by the great Keith Parkinson.
Carnivores of Light and Darkness (344 pages, $23 hardcover/$6.50 paperback, June 1998)
Into the Thinking Kingdoms (376 pages, $23 hardcover/$6.50 paperback, April 1999)
A Triumph of Souls (406 pages, $24.96 hardcover/$6.99 paperback, March 2000)
I was surprised and pleased to find a blurb on the back of my paperback editions from Todd Richmond at SF Site, who published a review of Into the Thinking Kingdoms back in 1999. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over how cool it is to discover blurbs I published on popular SF and fantasy books.
I was the founder and editor at SF Site until 1998, when I left to start Black Gate. Todd’s got great taste, so let’s have a look at what he said.
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…
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.
Of course, Warner boiled Todd’s thoughtful review down to two slender sentences for the blurb:
Foster is a master storyteller. I finished Into the Thinking Kingdoms in a single sitting.
That’s marketing for you.
Here’s a scan of the back covers of all three paperbacks, since I’m too lazy to type in the plot summaries (click for legible versions.)
All three books are currently out of print, but all are available in digital format from Aspect for $9.99 – $12.99 each. I bought all three print editions on eBay last month for $1.99, as part of a collection of Alan Dean Foster novels.
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