New York Times Bestselling author, Alan Dean Foster, has written a science fiction mystery – The Human Blend. Two stories intertwine, the first about a thug and a doctor who team up to find out the contents of a high-tech silver thread, the second a story about two complete opposites that meet and grow as characters as they unravel an enigma. However, the world that Foster’s built is anything but simple. Large portions of the globe have flooded, many old cities are underwater, and others adapt to the rising waterlines or are designed specifically to deal with the drastically altered landscape of the future.
But the changes don’t stop there. Large segments of the population undergo the common practice of melding – elective surgery to alter their bodies for practical or aesthetic reasons. Foster goes to great length to explain the history of melding and why so many humans choose to radically change their bodies – fishermen with webbed feet and gills, musicians with their instruments melded into their bodies, sex workers with weird fetish melds, to name a few. The Melds and the Naturals freely mix in society with no noticeable prejudices; the friction between the Natural doctor and Meld hood has more to do with their social backgrounds than their physical differences.
This was by far the most extensive and imaginative part of the book, the one that both piqued the interest and engendered the most ridiculous situations. Someone choosing to have gills added for underwater life is understandable. A policeman with a battery in his butt stretches anyone’s ability to suspend their disbelief. Melding someone into a giant chicken against their will as a method of torture, albeit without anesthetic, is just plain ridiculous.
The actual plot of the silver thread serves more as a method of introducing the outlandish world rather than a genuine story in its own right. However, about halfway through the book, the two main characters finally meet and the book becomes much more readable. There’s murder, mayhem, even a killer gator chase, but ultimately the main draw becomes the mystery. What is on the silver thread? Who developed its technology? Who is trying to kill the main characters and retrieve the device?
As the first book of a trilogy, not one of these questions is answered. Not one. After over 200 pages, the book literally ends with a question. The characters have grown as people, there have been some great action scenes and quirky dialogue, but no resolution.
If you want to read a book about a strangely diverse alternate reality with interesting, though often ridiculously unbelievable characters, I’d recommend this book. Otherwise, read something else. Foster may be a great author, but unfortunately it wasn’t obvious from this book.