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The Human Blend (The Tipping Point Trilogy) Paperback – November 22, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: The Tipping Point Trilogy
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345511980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345511980
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alan Dean Foster has written in a variety of genres, including hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, Western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: The Approaching Storm and the popular Pip & Flinx novels, as well as novelizations of several films including Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Wars, the first three Alien films, and Alien Nation. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first science fiction work ever to do so. Foster and his wife, JoAnn Oxley, live in Prescott, Arizona, in a house built of brick that was salvaged from an early-twentieth-century miners’ brothel. He is currently at work on several new novels and media projects.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

"Let's riffle the dead man." Jiminy scowled at the newly won corpse and hopped to it.

Viewed up close, the freshly demised Meld wasn't much of a prize--but then, Jiminy Cricket wasn't much of a thief. Neither was his occasional mudbud Whispr. As Jiminy slipped the still-warm barker back inside his shirt, the two men bent over the motionless middle-aged Meld who'd had the unluck to be singled out as prey. Whispr was relieved the man had finally stopped gasping. In the deceptive calm of the Savannah alley where they had dragged the lumpy body, the dead man's penultimate air suckling had grown progressively more disconcerting. Now it, and he, were stilled.

Jiminy had not been certain the barker would work as intended. With a slapjob barker you never did know. It was supposed to identify anyone, Meld or Natural, who was burdened with a fib, pump, adjunct, pacemaker, flexstent, or just about any other variety of artificial heart or heart accessory--and at the push of a button, stop it. A barker meted out murder most subtle. More important to the wielder, it imposed death quietly. Once the barker's short-range scanner had picked the pedestrian out of a late-evening crowd, Whispr and Jiminy had trailed him until the opportunity to stop his heart from a distance and riffle the resulting corpse had presented itself.

Victim and murderers alike were Melds. Jiminy's legs had been lengthened, modified, and enhanced with nanocarbonic prosthetics that allowed him to cover distances equivalent to obsolete Olympic long jump records in a single bound. Immensely useful for fleeing from pursuers. Awkward if you wanted to buy off-the-rack trousers. Each of his bone-grafted, elongated thighbones was twice the length of those belonging to a Natural of the same height. The high-strength fast-twitch muscle fibers with their bonded protein inserts that wrapped around his leg bones were three times normal thickness while the accompanying tendons had been fashioned from synthetic spider silk.

These melded legs had struck Jiminy with the casually bestowed nickname he had gone ahead and adopted as his own. Ostensibly he was a legitimate messenger, able to leap easily from platform to platform and street to catwalk across the multitude of canals and waterways that now crisscrossed Old Savannah. In actuality, they allowed him to elude all but the most persistent hunter. Evening to early morning was when he practiced his real profession. Was when he made his money resolute. Diurnal messenger boy was his mask, moonlight the chisel that chipped it away.

Unlike his friend who had acceded to a naming by acclimation, Whispr had chosen his own Meld name. His validated moniker was Archibald Kowalski. Everyone in his family had been big--in his family "big" serving as polite synonym for "obese." Growing up an obese kid was bad. Growing up poor and obese was bad squared. So when the appointed legal hour of adolescence arrived when Archie could choose to stay natural or undergo his first legal meld, he chose to become--slim. Not naturally slim which he could perhaps have accomplished with diet or even unpretentious traditional surgery, but unnaturally slim. Meld-slim.

Set beside the grand majority of complex meld surgeries, his was comparatively simple. They removed half his stomach and the majority of his intestines. In their place were inserted a fuel cell-powered post-digestive NEM (nutrient extractor and maximizer) that drew its energy from the fortified liquids he drank. It was complemented by a compact prefood processor. Nothing custom was required--all were straight off-the-line components. They had to be. Even with the first-meld loan he took out to pay for them he couldn't afford anything fancier.

Since then, with the money he and Jiminy had aggrandized through their after-hours activities, Archie had been able to add more personalized bioganic components to the humeld that was himself. A carbo squeezer, muscle assists, and most significantly a full course of bone aeration treatments. The result was that while he stood nearly six feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds, he was according to all tests and measures perfectly healthy, from his heart rate to his skin color. A bonus accruing from his chosen meld was that his cholesterol and triglyceride levels were lower than a mudpuppy's pooper. He and his whip-thin silhouette were nothing exceptional. Not when compared to the average Meld--far less when set beside one who was exceedingly customized.

He could slip through spaces between buildings where the police could not follow and enter openings too tight or narrow for more intelligent but less willowy thieves. Due to his everlastingly abridged weight he walked in a permanent hush. This practice of making airfalls instead of footfalls had led to him choosing the Meld name Whispr. But unlike Jiminy he had not had it wholly transliterated to his national ident. The census still knew him as Archibald Kowalski. Only friends and fences were acquainted with him as Whispr.

He and Jiminy had not singled out the unaccompanied pedestrian for the man's heartparts. Heart components were as common as--well, as melds. Perversely, what had drawn their attention was the man's left hand. With the face of its deceased owner smudging the alley's old brick paving, Whispr was able to admire the hand more fully as his partner extracted a compact set of decoupling tools from inside his copious shirt and began the process of ampuscation. Beyond the scene of the crim out on the one-way street an occasional electric vehicle, little noisier than Whispr himself, hummed along on its predetermined path as its passengers toured the city's historical district.

In a time of rising sea levels the blocks of old buildings, warehouses, and stately homes had turned out to be easier to preserve than the natural vegetation among which they had risen. Unlike much of the native flora that dominated the low-lying east coast of the old United States, standing cypress had no problem coping with the rising water that had inundated much of the old city. But most of the other trees and bushes needed a good deal of tender loving care to ensure their continuing survival. In the historical district entire blocks had been razed repeatedly and entirely. As with similar localities deemed worthy of preservation in Charleston, Port Royal, and all the way down to Jacksonville, they had eventually been placed on hydraulic platforms. So Old Savannah still looked remarkably as it had in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, except that the warm Atlantic shallows now flowed sleepily beneath the power stilts that kept the historical city high and dry.

The old town was always full of tourists. Tourists being always full of credit cards and other instruments of financial transfer as well as marketable swag and viable body parts, it was where Whispr and Jiminy preferred to hang out after leaving their day jobs--and scan for quarry.

Working swift and efficient with the gear from the tidy tool kit, Whispr's mudbud already had the hand half detached. Though his fingers were natural and unmelded, Jiminy was good with them. While his friend toiled, Whispr occupied himself keeping an eye on the distant street traffic and riffling the dead man's pockets, taking time to look for any hidden antitheft compartments that might have been sewn or welded into the fabric. To his surprise he located the man's wallet lying loose and unsecured in a front pocket. Such casual indifference to personal safekeeping pointed to a criminal neglect of personal protective measures. Or worse, the possibility that the wallet held nothing filchworthy. On the other hand there was the hand, whose construction suggested that its owner was a man of means, or at least had access to substantial resources.

Peering close he could see that the meld component his partner was carefully removing was an exquisite piece of work. Navahopi craftsmanship, perhaps. Or if it was an import, maybe Russian or Israelistinian. When one revelation after another came to light their excitement and expectations increased proportionately. As Jiminy's work progressed, however, Whispr found his early enthusiasm giving way in his half stomach to a slow curdling of his dinner. It was becoming increasingly clear that what the Cricket was ampuscating was no ordinary meld accessory. This fertilized the rising suspicion that the evening's prey might be no ordinary tourist.

Maybe sufficiently unordinary that others might come looking for him.

When the manifold processes of triple-R (Repair, Replace, and Regeneration) had first become cheap and widely available, people had opted for the best exterior matches to their truborn selves. It was only later, when flaunting one's Meldness had become not only socially acceptable but trendy, that such additional cosmetic expense had proven itself unnecessary. The prevailing sentiment became the same as that espoused by purchasers of costly private vehicles or fine jewelry. If you could afford an expensive bodily accessory, why not show it off? What was the difference between a tattoo and a blue you? So the titanium weave and carbonic fibers of the dead man's prosthetic hand glimmered in the dim light that infused the alley unencumbered by the ancestral wistfulness of human skin.

It was work as fine and precise as Whispr had ever seen. The bonding of metal and carbon fiber to wrist bone, tendons, and muscles was seamless. It was impossible to tell where organics ceased and modifications commenced. In addition to permitting basic grasping, each finger had been further customized to perform a different task, from airscribing to communications. The hand of the dead man had been turned into a veritable five-digited portable office.

Jiminy was all but cackling to himself as he strove to finish detaching the piece from its owner. "Swart-breath, this is terrific stuff! Must've cost tens of thousands to compile and append. Swallower will give us six months subsist for it." He leaned into his work. A surgically equipped Meld or even a Natural wou...

More About the Author

Alan Dean Foster's work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as "Star Wars", the first three "Alien" films, "Alien Nation", and "The Chronicles of Riddick". Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first "Star Trek" movie. His novel "Shadowkeep" was the first ever book adapation of an original computer game. In addition to publication in English his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has won awards in Spain and Russia. His novel "Cyber Way" won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so.

Foster's sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several "Best of the Year" compendiums. His published oeuvre includes more than 100 books.


Customer Reviews

If, like me, you are put off by this opening, then you probably would not like this book.
Angie Boyter
The worst sin of all is that the book just kind of ends . . . no resolution, which is not surprising given the books to follow; but no cliffhanger either.
Tung Yin
There are some trilogies where you can read the first book on its own and not need the rest of the series; this is not one of them.
Dave_42

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on December 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A good way to gauge how likely you are to enjoy The Human Blend is to read the opening paragraph: "Let's rifle the dead man." Jimmy scowled at the newly-won corpse and hopped to it.
If, like me, you are put off by this opening, then you probably would not like this book. If you are intrigued, I think you will find The Human Blend to be a middle-of-the-pack SF thriller that may help you while away a quiet evening but not dazzle you with anything especially original or clever.
The action takes place in a future where extreme physical alterations and enhancements are commonplace. Two Melds ( enhanced humans), Whispr and Jiminy Cricket, kill a man they think is an ordinary tourist to rob him and find a strange silver thread that is some sort of storage device. This theft unleashes a chase by assassins bent on retrieving the thread from Whispr and Jiminy and Ingrid, an unenhanced doctor who becomes involved when Whispr goes to her for treatment of a serious wound. Be warned: the mystery of the thread remains to be solved in a future book.
I read The Human Blend despite the opening pages on the basis of three presumptions, none of which turned out to be valid. First, I enjoyed some of Alan Dean Foster's early SF, but, as the bio points out, Foster writes in many genres, and this is NOT like early Foster. Second, the product description says The Human Blend has "the dark humor and edgy morality of an Elmore Leonard mystery". The edgy morality is pervasive, but the humor that makes Leonard enjoyable and leavens the grit was nowhere to be found. Finally, there was a promise held out of exploring what it means to be human in a society where you can provide your body with practically any features you want.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Marilynn Griffith on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the not-so-distant future, Florida has been washed away by the rising Atlantic Ocean and New Savannah, a high-rise copy of the city by the same name, floats on the coast of Namerica. The landscape isn't all that's changed either. The crazy weather, jungle climate and South American flora and fauna aside, it's the people themselves who've changed the most. Taking cosmetic surgery to a new level called melding, everyday people manipulate themselves to grow feathers, have eyes in the backs of their heads or in the case of the biomedical thief Jiminy, extended legs to run faster and leap longer, or to go from a poor fat kid to a slick, slim one like his partner Whispr.

When the pair of thieves use a weapon that can stop a person's heart from a distance to kill a tourist for his prosthetic hand --a five finger cyberdesk--they find something else, a metallic thread. While trying to fence their find, the police (all melds, of course) descend on them and Jiminy abandons Whispr to his own fate. Unfortunately, the decision seals his own fate and costs him his life.

These events set Whispr on the run through the swamps of New Savannah. He pauses long enough for a quick meld (more meat on his bones, a few facial changes) and a quick meal before setting of to find someone who can read the information on the thread that cost Jiminy his life. Little does he know that two teams of assassins are also after the thread and will do anything to get it. Shot by cyberbullets that can lead the police to him, he seeks out Ingrid Seastrom, an overly curious doctor, still natural and too pretty to be so.

The unlikely pair set out on an adventure that keeps the pages turning without making much connection with the characters.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I hadn't read a Foster book in a couple of decades. His latest is still science fiction as I remember him writing it, and it was fun to read. Though there were a few inconsistencies, the story moved along at a quick pace. The plot was interesting enough, plus he gives us a bunch of new technologies to get used to.

There is also an amazing cast of characters. We have an unlikely team of heroine and hero that we are going to travel with (presumably) through three episodes of the Tipping Point trilogy. Some of the others will stretch your belief, but they do fit with the overall story and add some interesting visual imagery.

This being the first of a planned trilogy, it's way too short. This is the age of six hundred page volumes, not page count of a total trilogy. This was too little for a big wait for the second and third books.

If you are a Foster fan, then go ahead and get this one. I liked it well enough and plan to follow the series when the next installment comes out. Of the more than a thousand sci/fi's I've read, it's not as good as many, but better than even more. 3.5 stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Walt Boyes VINE VOICE on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here we have an interesting idea, done badly. Alan Dean Foster has embarked on a new series, since he has done the Flinx thing to death. I used to really like ADF and he was on my "must buy" list. But lately, he's been phoning them in. The Human Blend is no exception. We have an unlikely and unlovely hero, a heroine who is a successful doctor who suddenly and without any real motivation throws over her entire life to pursue a scientific mystery with the hero, who she's just met. The story is thin, populated with cardboard characters, and way below the standard Foster used to set with the early Humanx novels.

Too bad. Nice idea. Maybe the next one will be better.

Walt Boyes
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