Fred D's Reviews > Phylogenesis

Phylogenesis by Alan Dean Foster
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Mar 26, 09

bookshelves: science-fiction
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in March, 2009, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** This is a fascinating book about the beginnings of how the Humanx Commonwealth was established. I've been waiting for years to read this story, ever since I read "Nor Crystal Tears".

There is something fascinating and profoundly beautiful, I think, about the relationship between the Humans and the Thranx. I have always been enthralled by Foster's descriptions of the relationships between the two species. Perhaps it is because in fiction we rarely see humans described from the perspective of a non-human encountering humans for the first time, especially from a race so different from humans as the Thranx. They are fascinated by things that we all take for granted, such as walking on two legs and having bones on the insides of our bodies (the Thranx have exoskeletons). It's fascinatingn to see such a different perspective on Humanity.

When Cheelo and Desvendapur first met, there was quite a bit of rivalry between them. Each one tried to explain why the other was inferior. Having 6 legs instead of two, Desvendapur argued, gave Thranx more stability. Their exoskeletons, he asserted, made them better protected against injury. Humans on the other hand, argued Cheelo, were more flexible, could climb better, and could swim better.

The way Foster wrote it, it appeared as if Desvendapur won the argument. It made me think that perhaps the Thranx WERE superior to humans! It made me feel a little bad. I think Cheelo failed to bring up 2 important points, however. Yes, we have soft vulnerable outer skin, but our intelligence more than compensates for that weakness. If we need extra protection, we just invent body armor. The various weaknesses Desvendapur pointed out, can be overcome, in most cases, through technology. Another point that Cheelo failed to press was our ability to easily adapt to a much wider range of temperatures. Temperatures that humans would consider only a bit brisk would kill a Thranx. It does seem incredible to me, as it did to Cheelo, how the Thranx managed to survive, flourish, dominate their homeworld, and even colonize many planets, if they could not tolerate a wide range of temperature environments. Desvendapur's response was that the Thranx lived underground, so they didn't spend much time on the surface where they would be subject to such adverse conditions. Cheelo didn't press the point, but my response would be that even if they did live mostly underground, they still would have to travel extensively on the surface if they were to spread across their planet, establish new hives, and explore new worlds for colonization. I think this weakness of the Thranx is their greatest weakness, one that Cheelo could have made a bigger deal about but didn't.

The interactions between Desvendapur and Cheelo Montoya were fascinating. I loved the banter back and forth between them about which species was better.

I really liked the character Desvendapur, and I totally enjoyed his reactions to the first humans he encountered. His passion for poetry, his desire to achieve "something big", his thirst for inspiration, really touched me. I was really saddened when he died. I had grown to love the character. But I see why it had to happen.

I remembered all over again why I loved "Nor Crystal Tears" and the whole Humanx Commonwealth series. That's why I love Foster's work. He does a great job of getting into the minds of alien creatures and showing us their point of view. His descriptions are fascinating.



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Reading Progress

02/27/2009 page 37
12.17% "So far so good. I find Foster's descriptions of the Thranx, their culture and society, to be as utterly fascinating as I always have."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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David C. Mueller What a great review of one of Foster's best novels to date.


Fred D Thank you! I appreciate your compliment. It was a great book.


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