Science Fiction Book Review


(2006) Alan Dean Foster, Pyr, US$25.00, hrdbk, 288pp, ISBN 978-1-591-02488-0


This is a techno-thriller, subtitled 'a novel of near-future India'. Taneer is a scientist who steals a McGuffin from his employers and goes on the run to sell it to the highest bidder (Note on McGuffin: I can't believe there's still anyone out there who doesn't know what a McGuffin is, but just in case: a McGuffin is a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to describe a plot device that, though the story revolves around it, is not of intrinsic importance to the story itself).

I won't bother to reveal what the McGuffin is as it's the only mystery in this pedestrian, formulaic beachreader of a book. Anyway, on the run with Taneer is his wife-to-be, Depahli, from the untouchable class. Needless to say his employers would like the McGuffin back and they despatch Chal Schneemann, a mercenary of sorts, to get it and Taneer.

Also on his tail is his father, Anil, who wants to kill him for dishonouring his family by sleeping with an untouchable. Sanjay is a shopkeeper who dabbles in illicit items and he is chosen to be Taneer's agent in the sale of the McGuffin. At the same time all this is happening in the city of Sagramanda there is also a serial killer on the loose, a Frenchwoman by the name of Jena who believes she serves the goddess Kali. On her trail is the police detective Keshu Singh. And, just to pad out the flimsy plot a little more, there's a man-eating tiger on the loose from the forest preserve on the outskirts of Sagramanda.

As you can no doubt imagine, there is a lot of running around until all these elements come together, whereupon Foster decides who he fancies having live and die, and then it's all tied up. The end. While this is all competently enough written, there is not one smidgeon of originality, and I for one am tired of lazy 'thrillers' that just dovetail a load of characters into a live or die denoument. Still, if that is your thing, then good luck to you.

Tony Chester

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