Body, Inc. by Alan Dean Foster

Body, Inc. (Tipping Point Trilogy)

For me, Alan Dean Foster is hit and miss as an author.  Some of his books have remained on my shelves, and some of them are rather more forgettable.  Recently, his books have been more in the latter category for me, I’m sorry to say.  This holds true for his newest novel, Body Inc., in which very little of note happens.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“In a world deeply wounded by centuries of environmental damage, two unlikely souls join forces: Dr. Ingrid Seastrom has stumbled into a mystery involving quantum-entangled nanoscale implants—a mystery that just may kill her. Whispr is a thief and murderer whose radical body modifications have left him so thin he is all but two-dimensional. Whispr has found a silver data-storage thread, a technology that will make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He is also going mad with longing for Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. Their quest to learn the secrets of the implant and the thread—which may well be the same secret—has led them to the South African Economic Combine, otherwise known as SAEC. Or, less respectfully, SICK. SICK, it seems, has the answers.

Unfortunately, SICK has also got Napun Molé, a cold-blooded assassin whose genetic enhancements make him the equivalent of a small army. Molé has already missed one chance to kill Ingrid and Whispr and now he has followed them to South Africa. This time, he is not only going to succeed, he is going to make them suffer.”

I remember reading the first Tipping Point novel and thinking that Foster had an interesting concept but failed to utilize it as well as he could have.  In this novel he does the same thing, nearly abandoning his exploration of the concept of “Melding” in favor of an extended chase scene.  It’s sad that the author didn’t seem to ever find a balance in his storytelling; whereas the first novel had too many Melded people just for the sake of showing them, this one barely had any at all.

I think that this is the trilogy’s main problem: lack of focus.  On the one hand, it purports to be about the extremes to which the human body can be changed, or Melded, in this futuristic setting.  On the other hand, it plays out like an industrial espionage tale.  The two don’t mesh very well, although they should work together just fine.

The story is still pretty readable.  I found myself going through it fairly quickly; however, I also found that the longer the book went on, the more I began to skim the text.  It’s not that Foster’s writing is bad, it’s just that he spends so much time describing the locations and the people that I started skipping ahead to look for the return of the plot.

Unfortunately, there’s not much plot to find.  As I mentioned earlier, this book is, at its heart, a chase scene that seems intended to be the transition to the third novel.  The entire thing plays out as several variations of “Our main characters look for clues to the mysterious thread that they carry, dodge assassins, and move on to the next location to look for more clues.”  During these shenanigans, the main assassin fantasizes about what he’ll do to them when he catches up, Whispr fantasizes about Ingrid, and Ingrid fantasizes about finding out what the thread does.

Foster is a reasonably good writer who seems to be hampering himself lately with plots that don’t go anywhere and stories that rely far too heavily on description and detail.  Body Inc. is an okay read, but it’s not something that I’d go out of my way to recommend.  Given that the first book was in hardcover and this one only in trade paperback, I have to wonder if they publisher feels the same way.

Also by this author: The Human Blend, Impossible Places, Lost and Found, Quofum, The Sum of Her Parts

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 6, 2012.

Series: Tipping Point
ISBN: 9780345511997
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 304
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
Read an excerpt