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Body, Inc. (Tipping Point #2) by Alan Dean Foster – review
Alan Dean Foster’s Pip & Flinx novels comprise one of my favorite science fiction series. I had never read any of Foster’s other novels, though I knew he had written some other very famous ones, like novelizations of Star Wars, the first three Alien films, and Alien Nation. I have also had the privilege of interviewing Alan at Boomtron.com, using my pseudonym of Professor Crazy. He’s a very cool guy, as well as being a very talented and well-respected science fiction author. To read it, click here.
The questions I’m going to discuss in this review are does Body, Inc., live up to the quality of the rest of his novels? Is it as good, or possibly better, than the first book in the Tipping Point Trilogy, The Human Blend? Also, what happens to the team of Meld & Whispr in this second book of the trilogy, and should we care?
Meld (Dr. Ingrid Seastrom) & Whispr are two wily thieves who traverse a future world where global warming has completely submerged major chunks of the Earth. For instance, there are now cities, or parts of cities, on stilts in Canada and South Africa. Venice is submerged. Bangkok is now known as “the Bangkok boatland.”
Also, genetic manipulation and full-body tattoos play a very important role in Body, Inc., and the Tipping Point Trilogy as a whole. Particularly popular are black-and-white tattoos, sometime half-and-half, or in checkerboard patterns, etc. Some people even have alternating black-and-white teeth. Certain animals have been genetically manipulated, or manipeded, to be used for purposes like security. For instance, black leopards are used at the south African airport to detect illegal immigrants. Great Whites serve a similar purpose in the coastal waters. Maniped hyenas are used to capture and subdue industrial spies.
The plot of Body, Inc., involves Meld & Whispr being in Africa under the guise of being tourists, when really they are trying to infiltrate the headquarters of the South African Economic Combine, otherwise known as SAEC. Or, as they call it, SICK. They have traveled there because Dr. Ingrid Seastrom discovered a mystery while conducting research into quantum-entangled nanoscale implants. The information she learned is explosive enough that it might just kill her.
Whispr is a thief and murderer (hey, no one’s perfect) who is so thin he’s practically two-dimensional. He has come across a silver data-storage thread, which is a technology that could make him a very rich man–if he lives long enough. He also lusts after his traveling companion, but she does not reciprocate his feelings, considering him just a means to her goal, another weapon in her arsenal. All roads seem to lead them to SICK, where they feel they’ll be able to unravel the mysteries of the implants and the data-storage thread.
The unlikely pair’s journeys take them from Namerica (as it’s called now) to South Africa back to the Namerican South. SICK sends their top assassin after the duo, the nefarious Napun Mole. His genetic enhancements make him the equivalent of a small army. Napun has already had one chance to kill them, but they managed to elude him. This time, he plans to make them suffer, to torture them before he finally kills them.
This novel, on the surface of it, has a lot going for it. It’s got action, adventure, espionage, and it spoofs the industrial spy genre. The trouble is that some reviewers have considered the author’s use of real and invented scientific jargon to slow down the plot and be a detriment.
My view on this is that Alan Dean Foster is well-known as an author who wants to make the worlds he creates seem to be as realistic as possible. He has traveled extensively, himself, and he tries to make the setting, the world he writes about, come alive for his readers. While some readers/reviewers may think that this slows down the momentum of the plot somewhat, I can’t help but think that if he didn’t try to create as realistic a future world as possible, then he’d probably get criticism for that, too. I didn’t mind the lengths and detail Foster went into, and I think that they made the other aspects of the novel and the many bizarre characters he writes about seem more realistic.
Body, Inc., is a great page-turning sequel to The Human Blend. It has plenty of action and adventure to hold your interest, and the two main characters grow on you, though Whispr seemed a bit stand-offish to me, and it took a while before I started to like him as a character. The gentic enhancements and genetically manipulated animals the author writes about may be far off in the future, if they happen at all, but, they are definitely interesting to read about, and Alan Dean Foster once again proves to be a master at worldbuilding. Body, Inc., is another fantastic book, and I’m anxiously awaiting the third book in the Turning Point Trilogy.