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The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster
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1321291,104 (3.06)5

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Substance: Fast-moving techno-thriller about artificially-changed human bodies and how that affects the culture. Plus a mystery about a mysterious impossible substance.

Style: Foster has a highly-developed artificial narrative that injects some arch humor into fairly standard action adventure. Having tried several of his books now, I like the substance but not the style.

Probably won't finish the series.

Other review here:
http://www.bookspotcentral.com/2012/07/19/body-inc-tipping-point-2-by-alan-dean-... ( )
  librisissimo | Oct 6, 2015 |
It stinks we never learn what's on this thread thing. I guess you're supposed to want to read the rest of the impending series, but I just don't care that much. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am sick unto death of books without endings. I was very happy while reading the first 50-100 pages of this book, but then I realized that the intriguing mystery that was set up in that span was not only not going to be solved, but that the reader was going to get only the tiniest dribs and drabs of information about it before being cut off by the non-ending. Worse, there was an endlessly repeating cycle of: unlucky thief who swiped the hot property goes to a shady associate for help; the police or the bad guys or the police who are also bad guys show up; and unlikely escape ensues. In addition, while the society of extreme medical body modification in a post-global-warming world was initially fascinating, each shady accomplice seemed more extreme than the last, which seemed like the author beating us over the head with the worldbuilding.

I would like to find out how the mystery ends, but not enough to justify reading further in this series, because I suspect the second book would also be a series of escalating escapes and information dispensed far too slowly. This is too bad, because it really was an intriguing set-up. ( )
2 vote amysisson | Nov 7, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well, I'd definitely recommend waiting til the whole series is available before beginning this, unless you're the type that likes to read half-plots while waiting anxiously for the next installment. The novel sets forth a wonderfully complex and detailed description of this new Earth, at the expense of plot advancement. It is obviously the first of a series; the cliffhanger ending only resolved the most superficial and immediate dangers to the characters.
The major complaint I would have, however, is the character of Whispr. When the story comes from his perspective, he is a sympathetic protagonist that I enjoy getting to know better. But when the POV switches and you see the face he presents to the world, it almost seems like an entirely new character; one that is obviously an untrustworthy criminal, and rather uncomfortable company. It was jarring, to say the least.
The parts of the story I most enjoyed were the world-building descriptions, which, yes did run on and on. But instead of being bombarded with pages of detail every two steps, it is spread out: the reader learns new things about this Earth even in the last chapter. I found myself skipping over the plot and character development sections, and focusing on those, my mind running away with what-ifs and fantastic scenarios. It really gets the imagination running, but plot-wise, well, leaving the reader hanging is an understatement. ( )
2 vote masterdeski | Feb 1, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The second of three EarlyReviewer books I caught up on over Christmas, The Human Blend is a science fiction novel about the near future, a world where environmental collapse means that Savannah, Georgia, has to be lifted up above the new sea level, but more importantly, artificial body manipulation ("Melds") are becoming increasingly common. One of the main characters is the thief Whispr, a Meld whose body has been rendered artificially thin because he is overcompensating for a generations-long pattern of obesity in his own family. The other protagonist is Dr. Ingrid Seastrom, a "Natural" who works on Melds. The plot of the novel concerns something that Whispr steals that proves too hot for him to handle-- and brings him right into the company of the straight-laced Seastrom.

The best part of the book is definitely the ideas about Melding. While Foster's post-environmental world feels very "been done" to me, the possibilities of the new and different Melds were always interesting and unusual. We have people who Meld themselves to be more attractive or fix health problems, to give themselves long legs, to look like Marilyn Monroe, to be old men with the bodies of small children, or (my personal favorite) to look like a crocodile. There are a lot of passing comments that indicate how Melds have reshaped society and allusions to the ways people think now. I was always fascinated by this, and Foster's world-building was very strong.

The book is more middling in terms of character. Though many of the incidental characters encountered by the protagonists along the way are quite fascinating, Whispr and Seastrom themselves are fairly uninvolving. Whispr is the stronger of the two, a wiley-but-not-entirely-wise street thief who knows barely enough to stay out of trouble. But he's almost entirely defined in terms of this, and moments where he reveals his humanity (such as his desire to see real animals) jar instead of adding depth. Seastrom, on the other hand, never convinces: she's the most beautiful woman around and the most brilliant, of course, but her motivations for sticking with Whispr never ring true. She's supposed to be there because of her scientific curiosity about what Whispr has discovered, but I doubt that scientists are as generically single-minded as The Human Blend tries to convince us, and Seastrom doesn't really seem like the type to jeopardize her life to learn about a neat new metal. And without a realistic motivation, she kinds falls apart as a character. Which is a shame, as I can easily see some ways to make her motives a bit clearer and more recognizable.

Where the book completely falls down is in terms of plot. It's a thin book, and I don't know why, as it barely gets started when it cuts off. Nearly literally cuts off-- nothing about the ending feels like an ending. The obvious question is why does this have to be a trilogy and not one book? It might be forgivable if a lot had happened in these 225 pages, but it hasn't. Mainly Whispr (and later Seastrom) move from place to place as they are pursued by (nasty) bad guys, just barely staying out of trouble, but never actually learning anything useful. The first time it happens, it's tense... the fifth time, less so. A less linear and more eventful plot would have gone way to make this a more enjoyable read; as it is, Foster fails to live up to the potential of the cool world he's created here, which is substantially more interesting than the story he tells in it.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Jan 6, 2011 |
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For Allen Grodsky and Bill Skrzyniarz, who prove that Shakespeare was wrong
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"Let's riffle the dead man." Jiminy scowled at the newly won corpse and hopped to it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345511972, Hardcover)

Alan Dean Foster’s brilliant new novel is a near-future thriller that has all the dark humor and edgy morality of an Elmore Leonard mystery, in addition to the masterly world-building and quirky but believable characters readers expect from Foster. This gripping adventure reveals a place where criminals are punished through genetic engineering and bodily manipulation—which poses profound questions about what it means to be human.

Given his name because radical surgery and implants have reduced him to preternatural thinness, Whispr is a thug. His partner in crime, Jiminy Cricket, has also been physically altered with nanocarbonic prosthetic legs and high-strength fast-twitch muscle fibers that give him great jumping abilities. In a dark alley in Savannah, Whispr and Jiminy murder what they take to be a random tourist in order to amputate and then fence his sophisticated artificial hand. But the hapless victim also happens to be carrying an unusual silver thread that appears to be some kind of storage medium. Ever quick to scent potential profit, Whispr and Jiminy grab the thread as well.

Chance later deposits a wounded Whispr at the clinic of Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. Things have not gone smoothly for Whispr since he acquired the mysterious thread. Powerful forces are searching for him, and Jiminy has vanished. All Whispr wants to do is sell the thread as quickly as he can. When he offers to split the profits with Ingrid in exchange for her medical services, she makes an astonishing discovery.

So begins a unique partnership. Unlike Whispr, Ingrid is a natural, with no genetic or bodily alteration. She is also a Harvard-educated physician, while Whispr’s smarts are strictly of the street variety. Yet together they make a formidable team—as long as they can elude the enhanced assassins that are tracking them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Two genetically altered criminals--Whispr and Jiminy Cricket--murder a random tourist in order to amputate and then fence his sophisticated artificial hand. But the hapless victim also happens to be carrying an unusual silver thread that appears to be some kind of storage medium. When Jiminy disappears, all Whispr wants to do is sell the thread as quickly as he can. When he offers to split the profits with Harvard-educated Dr. Ingrid Seastrom in exchange for her medical services, she makes an astonishing discovery--one that can get them both killed.… (more)

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