Review: Quofum by Alan Dean Foster

QuofumThis book was borrowed from the Yolo County Public Library, Davis branch.

After many years, Alan Dean Foster finally has written his final Pip and Flinx novel, Flinx Transcendent.

But he didn’t just barrel ahead into that last tale. Before that book, he set up some of the events in Quofum, a lackluster first contact novel.

The planet Quofum is a scientific enigma, as it appears and disappears without warning. During one of its appearances, an expedition is sent to study the wayward planet. What the crew finds is shocking: four distinct and intelligent alien species, which clearly couldn’t all have evolved on the planet at the same time. Along with wildly divergent flora and fauna, this presents a nearly impossible mystery.

The crew has no idea that their investigations may touch on the key to defeating the Great Evil that is approaching the galaxy; they’re concerned only with studying this unique planet. And when treachery divides them, their focus shifts to staying alive and finding a way home.

Foster seems to have fallen victim to a fascination with his own creation. The novel takes almost 300 pages to say “This world is full of weird things: It probably was created this way, and we don’t know what to make of it.” Readers slog through endless descriptions of plants and animals, detailing all the minute things the scientists find during their daily expeditions, and lovingly cataloging just about everything.

By the book’s conclusion, nothing has happened! Although billed as the set-up for Flinx Transcendent, this novel is nothing but a long, drawn-out backstory. Quofum can stand alone in Foster’s Commonwealth universe, but there’s really no point to it.

Since it’s filled with fascinating visuals and not much else, Quofum isn’t up to Foster’s normal standards. Unless you’re a Pip and Flinx completist, this one’s nothing more than world-building mental masturbation.