In nearly two dozen novels about the Humanx Commonwealth, Alan Dean Foster has fascinated readers with his brilliantly imagined interstellar realm-where humans, thranx, AAnn, and other species strive to work together to put the common good above selfish ends. But renewed efforts at cooperation prove that familiarity breeds contempt. Diuturnity's Dawn is the third thrilling novel in The Founding of the Commonwealth, a spectacular space adventure that traces the perilous early years of this remarkable universe.
If the idea of big bugs (the thranx) and human-sized snakes (the AAnn) makes you squirm, you'll have fun with bestseller Foster's latest installment (after 2000's Dirge) in his saga of interspecies conflict set in the far reaches of the galaxy. The fanatic Elkanah Skettle, a human, together with his evil thranx associate, Beskodnebwyl, plan to terrorize a huge fair on the planet Dawn, as tensions on another planet build perilously close to war. After some pointless perambulations, two amiable preachers of different species manage to intervene, handily and unconvincingly putting a halt to the nefarious schemes of Skettle and his insectoid partner. Eminently readable the narrative may be, but it rambles on, more concerned with describing body parts (both alien and human) and the various species' responses to each other than with dramatizing the tale through incident and adventure. The action really picks up only when some scientists who have been examining enigmatic sculptures above ground uncover beneath the surface a colossal chamber containing millions of unknown individuals within pods. The bright and winsome heroine, Fanielle Anjou, is a plus, though those fond of the traditional BEMs who lust after human females will lament the failure of the thranx and AAnn to express any sexual interest whatsoever in Fanielle. Younger readers should be particularly enthralled. (Mar. 1) FYI: Foster is the author of several novelizations, including Star Wars, the first three Alien films and Alien Nation. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Diuturnity's Dawn by Alan Dean Foster
Hundreds of bugs. Thousands of them, many nearly as tall as she. All chittering and clicking and waving their feathery antennae at one another as they went about their daily business. Magnified by the heat and the more than 90 percent humidity they favored, the atmosphere in the teeming underground avenue was saturated with the natural perfume emitted by their massed bodies. Understandably, they stared at her, their gloriously red-and-gold compound eyes tracking her progress. When she felt it necessary, she would respond to their inquiring gazes with a crr!lk of acknowledgment. Astonished to hear a human speaking High Thranx, their multiple mouthparts would invariably twitch in startled response. Such moments made her smile -- though she was careful not to expose her teeth. Through such small diplomacies were relations between species improved for the better.
They were not bugs, of course. Though commonly used to describe the highly intelligent insectoids, that word was typically insensitive human shorthand. The thranx were arthropods, insectlike but internally very different from their primitive Terran look-alikes. Four-armed and four-legged, or two-armed and six-legged -- depending on the needs of the moment -- they had helped humankind finally defeat the invidious Pitar. That notable achievement was now more than thirty years in the past. Since then, relations between the two victorious species had improved considerably over the suspicions and uncertainty attendant upon First Contact.
Stagnated would be a more accurate description, she mused. In certain specific instances, it could even be argued that they had decayed. As a second-level consul attached to the human embassy on Hivehom, it was the job of Fanielle Anjou and her colleagues to see that they did not worsen any further. Those who entertained higher hopes found themselves frustrated by the sluggish pace of diplomacy on both sides.
The electrostatic wicking of the shorts and shirt she wore reduced the effect of the oppressive humidity by more than half, and the electronic cooler integrated into her neatly cocked cap did much to mitigate the heat, but there was no way to pretend she was comfortable. It had been worse on the transport capsule that had brought her into the inner city, even though the commuting thranx had politely allotted her more space than they would have one of their own. As she wiped at her face, she reflected on the eternal low-tech usefulness of an absorbent handkerchief.
Diplomatic offices were on this level, but another half quadrant forward. She passed a nursery, where larval thranx were cared for and educated while awaiting metamorphosis; an eating establishment, with its rows of padded benches on which a tired thranx could stretch out on its abdomen, legs dangling comfortably on either side; and a large public information screen. The activities it proffered were utterly alien to her. Despite nearly ninety years of casual contact, and much closer interaction during the Humanx-Pitar War, humans still knew all too little about the enigmatic eight-limbed acquaintances with whom they shared the Orion Arm of the galaxy.
The public announcements that periodically echoed above the constant clacking of busy mandibles were all in Low Thranx. She had not mastered either language, but for a human, she was considered fluent -- at least by her colleagues. What the thranx thought of her attempts to speak their complex language she did not know. No doubt they considered soft lips and a flexible tongue poor substitutes for hard mandibles