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Vintage Treasures: Journeys of the Catechist by Alan Dean Foster

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Carnivores of Light and Darkness-small Into the Thinking Kingdoms-small A Triumph of Souls-small

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.)

Carnivores of Light and Darkness-back-small Into the Thinking Kingdoms-back-small A Triumph of Souls2-back-small

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.

See all of our recent Vintages Treasures here.

10 Comments »

  1. Funnily enough, ‘Splinter in the Mind’s Eye’ was the only Alan Dean Foster novel I read, around the time it came out. A guy in my art class in secondary school gave it to me, the deal being that I paint a copy of the cover in return (I had a largely undeserved reputation for being able to wield a brush) – I remember copying the cover a lot more clearly than I do the book’s actual content. It was the Ballantine cover, with Darth more or less in silhouette.* Luckily he didn’t want me to do the figures in the foreground – just Darth and the trees directly behind, so I don’t think I got gypped.

    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splinter_of_the_Mind's_Eye#/media/File:Splinter_of_the_Minds_Eye.jpg

    Comment by Aonghus Fallon - April 13, 2016 8:00 am

  2. Thanks John,

    I’m looking for something new, and this review has sold me :-)

    Cheers, -Anthony

    Comment by AWAbooks - April 13, 2016 9:08 am

  3. One of many authors I’ve meant to read more of but somehow never got around to it. That SW novel, I read and maybe another. This sound good, I may look for it. Thanks.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - April 13, 2016 9:04 pm

  4. Aonghus,

    What a story! How did the painting turn out? Do you have a picture of it?

    Comment by John ONeill - April 13, 2016 9:20 pm

  5. Anthony,

    Glad to hear it. Hope you enjoy – drop by to less us know what you think (and how long it takes you to find copies!)

    Comment by John ONeill - April 13, 2016 9:21 pm

  6. R.K,

    I really enjoyed Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, but that may be my Star Wars love showing. I’m also a fan of ADF’s short fiction… he has several paperback collections out, and they’re well worth a look.

    Comment by John ONeill - April 13, 2016 9:23 pm

  7. I read so many of his books back in high school, always found on the paperback SF spinner at the public library.

    Midworld is possibly my favorite, and might warrant a reread. Possibly followed by Philip Jose Farmer’s Dark is the Sun, for reasons I find difficult to articulate.

    Comment by Joe H. - April 13, 2016 11:37 pm

  8. Actually the painting wasn’t bad, mainly because it was pretty simple. If he’d asked me to do the two figures in the foreground? Errrm…

    I have no idea what he did with it. I got a lot of my SF books from him, as well as old back issues of 2000 AD (which had only launched the previous year). Funnily enough, I was recently reminded of another book he’d lent me when my brother posted me a link for an article about the physical impracticalities of Superman and Lois ever getting it on – ‘Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex’. The article dates from ’69, but was included in this anthology. It was called ‘SuperHeroes’ and came out in ’78

    http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html

    http://www.amazon.com/Superheroes-Michel-Parry/dp/0722167113/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

    The author’s name – one Larry Niven – would have meant nothing to me at the time.

    Comment by Aonghus Fallon - April 14, 2016 5:44 am

  9. I read a lot of Alan Dean Foster and even if I have trouble remembering most of it, I really, really liked the Icerigger-books (especially the first).

    Comment by peer - April 14, 2016 1:06 pm

  10. SOLD! I must read CARNIVORES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS. “…packed with flavorful incident.” How can you not love a quote like that on the back of a book? Add it to the must-read pile.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - April 15, 2016 3:49 am


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