The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

Tofu being used as a bookstand.
Tofu being used as a bookstand.

Why I Read It: Love ADF’s work, so had to check it out.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: SF mystery buffs would have fun with this. Also, those into body mods.

Narrator: David Colacci

Publisher: Tantor Media (2010)

Length: 10 hours

Series: Book 1 Tipping Point

Author’s Page

In a world filled with body mods, things are interesting. Whispr and his buddy aren’t above a little mugging. Unfortunately, the mugging goes awry, though they did get the prosthetic hand they wanted in the first place. However, they end up chased and injured, and Whispr is separated from his buddy and on his own. Being the opportunist he is, he also took a very small metal thread off the mark. Who knows what info it holds, if anything at all.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ingrid Seastrom, so far unmodded, helps the modded and unmodded, the wealthy and the poor, the clean and the questionable alike. While paying a house call on a teen with decorative, yet infected, feathers melded to the back of her head, Seastrom finds something unusual on a scan. Easy enough to remove, she does so and takes it back to her work lab for analysis; a tiny metal thread with an indeterminate purpose.

This was a great book. The mystery was well plotted, the main characters nicely fleshed out, and the world so weird and full of life and beyond what I expected when I picked up the book. The melds were great – biotech allowing humans to meld their DNA with other critters to create temporary decorative fetishes, or full body changes like Whispr’s friend the alligator man. Of course, with any well established tech, you get those who aren’t licensed and can sell or create what you need on the street for fast cash. So there’s all sorts of crazy characters in this book. It was never a dull moment listening to this novel.

For much of the book, we follow Whispr, a once fat kid who became a fat adult, who decided he wanted to be rail thin for the rest of his life. So he made it happen with the right blend of DNA and a melder. Living on the edge of society, taking the odd job here and there, stealing and/or mugging to make ends meet, he probably isn’t the standard role model hero. But I got to know him, watched him struggle, treat his few friends decently. So I was already attached to him before we really got quality time with Dr. Seastrom, a very upstanding citizen. She’s OK too, and it was fun to watch her struggle with her own prejudices and moral quandaries of joining forces with Whispr to unravel the mystery of the metallic threads.

Set in a swampy, humid Savannah for much of the book, the world has learned to deal with a changing ecosystem. The world has heated up and plants and animals have easily moved into the expanding muggy, humid ecosystems. Many locals opt to have gills melded in or water proof skin for feet to aid in fishing or other jobs that require a long slog in the swamps on a daily basis. I really appreciated how Foster created this environment and then through in the bio tech, and that all of this influences the characters and bears upon the plot. Masterful!

The Narration: David Colacci did quite well. I enjoyed his range of male and female voices and his accents. I could definitely listen to him again.

What I Liked: Damn near everything; the tech; the environment; the modified beasties; the modified people; the mystery; at the end, I am still not sure what to make of Whispr – he’s got good and bad qualities.

What I Disliked: The ending was just a teensy abrupt. But this is easily solved by heading down to the local library to check out Book 2.

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What Others Think:

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Bill’s Book Reviews

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3 thoughts on “The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster”

  1. I enjoy Alan Dean Foster’s work as well and it has been far too long since I’ve read anything by him. I need to see if my library has this audio version. I’m currently listening to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and am looking for more SFF audio to add to my list to “read” this year. Makes the drive to work even more interesting.

    I became an ADF fan as a kid when I read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and he became one of those authors whose name was one I sought out every time I found myself in a bookstore. Some of my most fun childhood/teenage reading experiences are associated with his novels and short stories.

    1. I started with his Flinx & Pip series as a kid and it has turned into a life-long book love affair. I have hope that he will reopen the series some day.

      The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was incredible as an audiobook. the narrator did the Russian accent the whole way through.

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