The Pip and Flinx series has spanned 35 years which is quite a long time to follow a series. Alan Dean Foster has written a typically young adult series. They are quite innocent and free of explicit sex and violence. I guess you could say that the Pip and Flinx series is fairly wholesome. Thankfully, Flinx is no angel. He is, however, a good person – for a given definition of good.
The series begins with Flinx as a child on the Planet Moth and ends with Flinx as an adult on the planet Cachalot. He has had many adventures travelling around the galaxy trying to figure out who and what he is. We are in the science fiction world with loads of drama and very little realism. I guess that is part of the charm of the series. Sometimes there is more fantasy in science fiction than there is in fantasy itself. All in all, the Pip and Flinx series has been an enjoyable journey. In spite of the writing being fairly average a lot of the time, I got caught wondering how the whole thing was going to resolve itself.
Flinx (later discovers his name is Philip Lynx) appears for the first time in For Love of Mother Not (1983). For Love of Mother Not was written after the first three books in the series, but for you as a reader it would be a good idea to read For Love of Mother Not first as it explains Flinx’ background.
At the time of For Love of Mother Not, Flinx is not aware of who he is or where he is from. On the planet Moth Mother Mastiff buys Flinx at an auction and raises him as her own. It does not take long for them to discover that there is something unusual about Flinx, and both decide that it is a good idea to keep Flinx’ erratic abilities under wraps.
One night Flinx wakes hearing an emotional distress signal. His empathic abilities are reading loud and clear for once. He goes out into the rain to see who is in trouble and discovers an Alaspin dragon that he names Pip. We never find out how Pip ended up on Moth, nor is it all that important. Pip’s venomous spitting abilities come in handy when the two of them go after Mother Mastiff and her kidnappers.
After having read For Love of Mother Not you go back to the original reading order. Because For Love of Mother Not was written so much later than The Tar-Aim Krang (1972) you will probably notice a couple of discrepancies. You will survive, believe me.
As The Tar-Aim Krang begins Flinx and Pip are still with Mother Mastiff on Moth. They discover a treasure map on a dead man. Flinx meets Bran Tse-Mallory (human) and Truzenzuzex (thranx) for the first time, while acting as their guide. Flinx and Pip end up travelling with the two to the Blight. To get there, they need to go by space-ship. Flinx’ empathic abilities will play an important part in the group’s discoveries.
Foster is not big on explanations of how Flinx and the rest travel from one solar system to another. To him the plot is the important part. Flinx and Pip’s interactions with others and their adventures are what drives this story up, up, up and away.
Flinx is still searching for clues to his ancestry in Orphan Star (1977). During his unwilling stay with the merchant Conda Challis, Conda hinted heavily about Flinx’ parentage. Flinx’ chase brings him into contact with the female Thranx, Sylzenzuzex, who just happens to be the niece of Truzenzuzex. Eventually, the pair of them end up on the edicted planet Ulra-Ujurr, where they meet a highly telepathic race (Ulra-Ujurrians).
Flinx and Pip now have their own space ship – Teacher – making the search for Flinx’s parents a whole lot easier. On their way they acquire a new pet by the name of Abalamahalamatandra (Ab for short). In The End of the Matter (1977) Bran and True turn up out of the blue looking for Ab. What a coincidence. That is the way it is with some authors. The coincidences line up. The human Skua September tells Flinx something of the Meliorare Society and the Qwarm (assassins) are sent after Flinx. Each book takes us a step closer to the end of Flinx’s search.
Love is in the air. Flinx in Flux (1988) shows us a new side of Flinx. I’m hopelessly in love with you, he tells Clarity Held. It cannot be, I’m an experiment. OK. So I exaggerate a bit. But he did tell Clarity Held that due to his experimental state, he felt that the two of them could not be an item. Trouble appears on the horizon in form of Clarity’s boss. He wants what Flinx has, even if he has to kidnap him. But Flinx has these strange abilities, and it might be a bad idea to be mean to him.
By now there are a whole lot of people who want to get to Flinx. There are the authorities who want him for various crimes. The Qwarm want to assassinate him and a few criminal bosses want to use Flinx. As we enter the world of Mid-Flinx (1995) Flinx has become quite a popular person. Maybe the saying “All PR is good PR” isn’t all that correct. To get a break Pip and Flinx go to Midworld. But breaks from trouble only happen to people who are not in adventure novels. On this semi-sentient planet Flinx and Pip learn to respect this dangerous planet, and also find that through this respect they have some protection when the baddies come to get them.
In Reunion (2001) Foster once again throws his heroes Pip and Flinx around the galaxy in search of an answer to Flinx’s heritage. Somehow Flinx thinks that this will make his choice of saviorhood or not easier. Together Pip and Flinx discover more about the Meliorare Society, the eugenicists who experimented with Flinx and other children in their search to create the perfect human.
Due to the information they uncover, Flinx and Pip go to Aan space where the walking lizards live – enemies of both humans and Thranx. Once there, Flinx’s unusual abilities come in handy in uncovering information and keeping himself hidden from the Aan – who would like nothing more than killing a human.
In Flinx’s Folly (2003) Flinx discovers exactly what the Great Emptiness (mysterious force) approaching the Milkyway is. Getting that knowledge almost tore his mind apart, and he would like to avoid repeating the experience. Like all mysterious things, the Great Emptiness has its set of followers. The cult of the Order of Null is set on stopping Flinx permanently. Extinction of life is the goal to have it seems. Fortunately for Flinx, he has loyal friends who want to help him in any way they can. One of these is the love of his life, Clarity Held. I wonder if she really holds clarity.
Flinx is tired of the expectations and just wants to go somewhere peaceful to think. His AI-space-ship Teacher suggests the planet Jast. Jast is where the action in Sliding Scales (2004) takes place. As you’ve probably understood by now, the Pip and Flinx series isn’t so much about Flinx’s search for an identity, nor is it all that much about winning over the Great Emptiness. These books are mainly about the trouble Flinx gets into hopping from place to place.
On Jast three seemingly incompatible races live together in peace. The Vssey, Aan and humans live in apparent harmony though apart. When Flinx upon arrival gets attacked by one of the Aan, he loses his memory and ends up in an Aan artist community. A Vssey rebellion is in the offing, and Flinx and Pip get caught in the middle of it.
In his search for a super-weapon that might destroy the darkness, Flinx has problems with his space-vesse,l and the Teacher has to make an emergency landing on an uncharted planet. In Running From the Deity (2005) Flinx experiences for the first time what it is like to live without his headaches and his empathic abilities going haywire.
The prime directive of the Commonwealth is to not interfere with primitive species, especially when using technology. Flinx breaks that rule and ends up being worshipped as a god. These compatible beings aren’t any nicer than any other species, and two opposing sides on the planet both want Flinx for their own. This leaves Flinx running again.
In 1973 Foster wrote Bloodhype. Flinx appears in the latter half of the novel. In a timeline sort of sense this action and humor filled novel should appear after Running From the Deity and before Trouble Magnet.
Bloodhype is a powerful drug that addicts you the first time and kills you if you do not continue with it. A pretty good deal for the producers, I would think. Pip and Flinx end up trying to stop the Bloodhype industry and end up on the planet Repler. We get to meet the Vom and a revived Tar-Aiym Krang in psionic battle, with the Tar-Aiym Krang more or less on the Commonwealth’s side. So, drugwar and psionic battle make for an interesting scifi adventure.
In Trouble Magnet (2006) a group of street-kids need to be rescued several times by Flinx. Once again Flinx has been side-tracked from his mission to find a solution to the problem of the Great Emptiness. As such, Flinx’s visit to Visaria seems part of a tendency to delay the ending of the series. Flinx’s aim seems to be to see if there is still any good out there worth saving, but Foster did not convince me of those intentions. Not one of his better ones.
With Patrimony (2007) Foster is finally back on track, both in terms of the quality of his writing and with the storyline. Oh, well. What would writers do without faithful readers (or suckers as anyone else would call us)? Flinx and Pip go to the planet Gestalt to follow-up on a clue they received in Trouble Magnet.
In showing his face, Flinx has once again come to the attention of the cult of the Order of Null. This time they are not about to fail in destroying him. Flinx is tracked and finally shot down in a river. His native guide is severely wounded but Flinx and Pip are OK. They are discovered and saved by the native Tlel. Together dangers are faced and Flinx discovers what he has wondered about his father.
Flinx Transcendent (2009) is the last story in the adventures of Pip and Flinx, or the last three stories in one novel. The first part of the story sees Pip and Flinx on the Aan home world. Flinx’s interactions with a young Aan are well-paced and well written.
Flinx is once again with the love of his life, Clarity, and his two friends, Bran and True. Once again, the Order or Null are after Flinx, and he will need the help from all of his friends to survive their attention.
And finally, Flinx faces the Great Emptiness that is speeding its way across the universe towards our galaxy. Flinx still does not know how to defeat it, but fear not, a solution will arise.
And so our journey with Pip and Flinx ends, or maybe not. The Commonwealth is a large place, and while Flinx might not again take main stage, he might very well appear in a smaller role – at least according to some of the speculations out there. I for one am finished with the Commonwealth.