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    Review of THE LIGHT-YEARS BENEATH MY FEET by Alan Dean Foster (see his website)


    Del Rey, June 2005

    Freed from alien slavers, former Chicago commodities trader Marcus Walker, George the Dog (now enhanced with speech), Braouk the Tuuqalian, and Sequi the K'eremu have a comfortable existance, but all of them want to return to their homes. In the meantime, Walker seeks a role that will allow him to find some meaning in his alien existance. After all, Braouk is sought after by those who admire his eternal war-epics, George is simply lovable, being a dog, and Sequi is self-reliant in her confidence (often well-justified) that she is smarter than anyone around her. But Walker is a human and needs positive strokes. He comes up with the idea of becoming a chef--in a galaxy where foods have to be martialed and persuaded into service.

    Walker's increasing expertise in the kitchen nets him a job offer by a star-crossing race much further out the Milky Way's spiral arm, but is it the right arm, or will Walker and his friends be moving away from home? In the end, it doesn't matter--at least they're moving and they haven't had any other offers. The four set off to a world where warfare is a game, played by 'traditional' rules that restrict military technology to a medieval level, but give newscasters sophisticated broadcast equipment to let everyone in the cities stay in tune with the battles.

    Although Walker's cooking skills had proven valuable in getting them started in their travels, they also make him too valuable to simply let him walk away. His hosts don't exactly tell him he can't leave, but they tell their astronomers not to fast-track his requests for help in locating Earth. Walker decides to get involved in local politics, and in the 'traditional military' side of society. Walker's football-based strategy leads to strange results--but can it get him home? And what to do about the pesky slavers who seem intent on recovering Walker and friends, no matter what the costs?

    Author Alan Dean Foster (see more reviews of novels by Foster) pokes loving fun at the traditional fish-out-of-water story, having Walker engage in some truly weird tactics. His super-intelligent but annoying alien Sequi is a nice touch, and George the Dog remains one of the most attractive characters in a science fiction story. THE LIGHT-YEARS BENEATH MY FEET suffers a bit from being the middle book in a trilogy. We don't have the getting to know you as the characters learn to deal with each other, or a grand resolution as I'd expect in the final novel. Still, LIGHT-YEARS is entertaining light reading.

    If you're looking to decompress from a rough day at the office, or maybe from an involved and convoluted Stephenson or Cheryth SF tale, LIGHT-YEARS would be a great choice. You don't need to read the previous book in the series (see our review of LOST AND FOUND), but it would enhance the experience.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 8/12/05

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