Reviews: Humanx Commonwealth

Flinx in Flux

Flinx in Flux, the fifth book (chronologically) in the Flinx and Pip series, is by far the strongest in terms of plotting and Character Development. It marks the point where the story shifts in tone from a light-hearted, episodic format into more serious Space Opera. It's a must read for any fan of the series.

It cannot have escaped any long time reader that Flinx went through the four previous books without a serious Love Interest. That problem is solved when he accidentally rescues the beautiful Clarity Held from certain death at the hands of rabid ecoterrorists. She's suitably grateful for the rescue, but Flinx, with his limited experience of women, not to mention personal insecurity issues, fails to reciprocate. Clarity is in the process of drawing him out when another attack forces them to retreat into the caves of the planet Longtunnel. Lost in the darkness, Flinx is forced to reveal the existence of his Psychic Powers. The aftermath of this revelation drives Flinx into the clutches of Clarity's opportunistic boss, who has no qualms about using him as a guinea pig in her research. As the ecoterrorists put in a final appearance, Flinx discovers that his powers have matured, allowing him to project as well as receive emotions. Then the Ulru-Ujurrians show up, revealing the existence of an Ultimate Evil that threatens to destroy the entire galaxy if not stopped. Somehow, Flinx's unique powers make him The Chosen One to deal with the menace. The book ends with his decision to seek out an answer to the threat on his own.

The book is tightly written and retains the clever banter that marks Alan Dean Foster's characters, managing to present a Flinx that is both more mature and independent than in previous books, yet still insecure about himself and his personal life. As the back cover says, "Not even the mighty minidrag Pip can save Flinx from his most dangerous entanglement yet: love!" It also marks the introduction of a greater continuity to the story — the Ultimate Evil that Flinx must deal with. The only part that may not sit well with fans is the ending, which leaves the Love Interest plot hanging, not to be picked up again until Flinx's Folly.

Flinx Transcendent

Flinx Transcendent is the Grand Finale of the Flinx and Pip saga, Alan Dean Foster's conclusion to his decades-spanning Space Opera series. And having read through it twice, it at turns embodies the best and worst aspects of his writing.

For one thing, the novel is almost religious in its attention to tying up loose plot threads. By the time the last page has turned, literally every single major character from the series has put in an appearance. It's so blatant that it completely spoils the dramatic entrance of the final villain at the climax. I won't say who it is in this review, but anyone who's been following the series could have seen it coming from several hundred light years away.

As a result of this, and despite the novel's length (over twice that of most of the others), it spends relatively little time on the Character Development of its main protagonist. Flinx has spent the last six or so novels drowning beneath an ever-increasing burden of Wangst over his parentage, his evolving and unwanted Psychic Powers, and the fact that the universe has seen fit to make him its Chosen One to confront the galaxy-devouring abomination from beyond. Yet, by the end of the first chapter, he experiences a personal moment of Epiphany Therapy that cures him... just like that.

The rest of the plot is wrapped up in an equally formulaic way as Flinx resolves his conflicts like a shopping list. Centuries-old enemies of the Commonwealth quelled... check. Love Interest retrieved from the bus... check. Les Collaborateurs neutralized... check. Ancient Precursor superweapon found... check. It didn't work? Okay, here's an even more powerful superweapon. Flinx turns it on, it makes the Ultimate Evil go bloop, cue Denouement, wedding, Where Are They Now Epilogue.

And let's not forget all the Plot Induced Stupidity that Flinx continually gets afflicted with, such as completely forgetting about the Superpower Meltdown that's saved him on countless occasions just so yet another old character can put in a Big Damn Heroes moment.

Despite all this I still enjoyed reading it, in an Airport Fantasy kind of way.