Midworld: Interesting biological science fiction

Midworld by Alan Dean Foster science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMidworld by Alan Dean Foster science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMidworld by Alan Dean Foster

On a faraway planet with a dense jungle ecosystem, a human colony ship accidentally landed generations ago. The planet killed all but a few hardy survivors and their offspring evolved, along with the jungle, into a symbiotic pseudo-human race.

A man named Born is one of the descendants of those few humans. In his early manhood, he is eager to prove himself a mighty hunter and a desirable mate for a girl he has a crush on. Among his people, who live in the trees, he’s somewhat of an oddity, unconventional and curious, daring to traverse areas of the jungle that are higher or lower than his people are usually willing to go.

On one of his risky excursions, Born discovers an alien (human) spaceship inhabited by people who have recently landed on the newly discovered planet, strayed from their base, and become lost in the hostile jungle. Being adventurous and brave, and wanting to impress the young lady, Born offers to guide them back to their base. He is accompanied by an animal companion who he is bonded to. As they attempt to reach the base, they face many perils such as boring insects (not boring as in uninteresting, but boring as in driving holes through things), and cleverly camouflaged carnivores. (Aside: Cleverly Camouflaged Carnivores sounds like a great name for a Metal band.)Midworld by Alan Dean Foster science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

The humans that Born is guiding turn out to be scientists who’ve discovered something valuable on the jungle planet. As you’d expect, they want to exploit the planet for this resource and, of course, this conflicts with the interests of Born’s tribe…

Alan Dean Foster has created a fascinating world which I enjoyed exploring with Born and his amusing animal companion. Born’s people live among the trees, never seeing the sun or the surface of the planet. Their evolution, the way they’ve developed a symbiotic relationship with the jungle, and the way this adaptation has influenced their mythology and culture is interesting to contemplate. We don’t even get the full view of it until the final striking sentences of the novel. I love this type of biological science fiction.

Foster’s world-building is the highlight of Midworld (1975). His characters and their dialogue and interactions are less memorable. The plot (which is a lot like the movie Avatar) is fairly simple. The prose is occasionally purple. It’s the biology that Foster does so well. I recommend it to readers who enjoy biological themes in their science fiction.

Tantor Media has recently released an audio version of Midworld with narrator Eric Martin giving a nice reading. It’s just over 8 hours long. Midworld is the first book in Foster’s HUMANX COMMONWEALTH series of stand-alone novels. I hope Tantor Media will be producing the rest of the series in audio format.

Published in 1975. Audio version published in 2019. Born was a child of the rainforest that covered Midworld, part of the primitive society that the peaceful jungle planet had sustained for hundreds of years. He was wise in the ways of his world, and he knew well the precarious natural balance that governed all things. Then one day the aliens came. Giants. They knew nothing of the Upper or Lower Hell — and they cared less. Born had risked his life to save them, to guide them through the myriad tangled boughs, past unseen, unsuspected dangers lurking in the underbrush. But worse than their ignorance of how to survive, the aliens had plans for Midworld, plans that could utterly destroy the globe-spanning forest that his people called home. As the days passed, Born realized his mistake. And as he had once hunted only to live, he knew now that he would be forced to live only to kill…

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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