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Sliding Scales: A Pip & Flinx Adventure Mass Market Paperback – Sep 27 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Flinx and Pip, that daring duo of man and "minidrag" (a flying snake), take a break—or try to—from fighting the forces of evil in Foster's surprisingly dark ninth entry (after 2003's Flinx's Folly) in an SF series usually considered light on substance but heavy on fun. Philip "Flinx" Lynx, the young Commonwealth hero, is exhausted. He may hold the key to saving the universe, but he doesn't care. He broods over Clarity Held, the injured girlfriend he left behind in Flinx's Folly. Teacher, his ever-helpful ship-mind, suggests a vacation. Unfortunately, Flinx travels to Jast, a planet caught in a rising conflict between two sentient species, the mushroom-like Vssey and the reptilian AAnns. An ambitious AAnn secondary administrator, Takuuna, wants Jast allied with the Empire at any cost, including subterfuge, terrorism and murder. His mistrust of "softskinned" humans leads to an attempt on Flinx's life, but Chraluuc, an AAnn artisan, finds Flinx and nurses him back to health as the outcast artists of Tier courageously welcome him into their family. Foster exhibits a keen eye for depicting alien art forms and injects a cohesion lacking in some earlier installments, giving the series a much-needed energy boost.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–On the run, the young human Flinx and his companion, Pip, an Alaspasian flying snake, arrive on the planet Jast for a "vacation," but find it under the influence of the AAn Empire, enemy of the Humanx Commonwealth. Inspector Taruuna, assigned to Flinx as guide (and watchdog), attacks him and leaves the "spy" for dead. Rescued and given shelter by the Tier, an AAn artists' colony, Flinx recovers but has lost his memory. The situation is further complicated by the beginning of local resistance to AAn control. Foster does a wonderful job of creating an alien world: the varied life-forms on Jast use air-filled bladders for locomotion. The sentient Vssey, tubular and tentacled, make decisions by consensus reached after lengthy discussion, infuriating the reptilian AAn; they believe in hierarchy and survival of the fittest. Flinx and the Tier find common ground despite major cultural differences; he and Craluuc, a female artist, form a particularly strong bond. When Taruuna learns that Flinx is alive, the Tier must decide whether to defy the order to turn him in. Familiarity with previous Pip and Flinx books is assumed. Flinx's final defense against Taruuna may seem a bit out-of-the-blue, but it is in line with the character's evolving abilities throughout the series. An entertaining, imaginative adventure with a likable protagonist.–Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library, Fairfax County, VA --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This, however, is a completely different animal. When Teacher, is AI driven ship suggests that he might need a vacation, Flinx actually heeds its advice and instructs it to find an interesting world where he will be free of the influences of everyone who is trying to make him ultimately responsible for the survival of the universe. The computer selects Jast, a lonely planet in the middle of a region of space where both Humanx and Aan interests intersect. The the biosphere is entirely composed of species, intelligent and otherwise, who have either one or no feet. This slows things down considerably and the Vssey are intelligent, and technically adept, but they decide everything by committee, and take as much time as it takes. Which drives the Aan presence on the planet insane.
Flinx lands, and is promptly the subject of a murder attempt by an Aan who is hungry for status. Flinx survives with no memory, and nearly dies on the desert when he is rescued by other Aan, from the Tier of Ssaiinn, an artists colony which is entirely unlike everything we know of the Aan. In the meantime, a Vssey rebellion is fomenting (ever so slowly) and suddenly the Aan back at the capital find themselves the object of terrorist attacks. Flinx has jumped into the midst of trouble again, but this adventure has many unusual twists.
What really makes the story is all of the details of the Aan. They have been the stereotypical villains for so long that actually discovering they have personalities is a surprise. While some are painted as the ultra-aggressive, status-conscious types we've seen before, even the more militant Aan have some shred of 'humanity.' And the artists of the Tier of Ssaiinn are a delightful change as we discover that Aan can actually be both admirable and likeable.
I'm not sure if this book is intended to advance the story arc about the evil from beyond the Great Emptiness or give the reader's a well deserved break before the story picks up again, but Sliding Scales works much better than its predecessor. It's hardly the great American science fiction novel, but it is decent entertainment. Whether you buy the hardback or decide to wait for the paperback, I think you'll find this an acceptible effort.
Jast is home to a sentient species with a highly developed civilization. It's also a target for the Commonwealth's arch-nemesis, the AAnn Empire. When one of the reptilian aliens is assigned as Flinx's "guide" (or minder, actually), the young human doesn't object because he's met the AAnn before. He understands and speaks their language, and thinks he understands their culture quite well, too. But on that point he's mistaken, as he discovers when his "guide" nearly kills him and actually does leave him for dead in a rugged, isolated part of the Jastian landscape. Or he would discover that - if he could only remember how he got there.
Initially I groaned a bit when I read the chapter that introduced Flinx's amnesia. "What a tired old plot device!" I thought. But I kept reading, and before too many more pages were turned I'd decided that the tired old plot device was working just fine.
There's not much movement in this book toward resolution of the mysteries central to Flinx's on-going story. It's basically a standalone "planet of the week" adventure, with character development (for Flinx, and for the AAnn as a species) its only real contribution to the saga as a whole. But, with that understood and accepted, I found it an enjoyable tale. Not the best in the series (I've read them all), but definitely worth the read.