First, the preliminaries. Thanks to Matt Staggs for bringing this book to my attention and for giving me the opportunity to review it, as well as to interview Alan (via email).
Second, discerning readers will note that at some point I'll mention that I've read and enjoyed most of what Alan has written over the years, including his fantasy series Spellsinger (and Son of Spellsinger). Some will probably be quick to point out that this would seem to run contrary to statements I've made elsewhere regarding fantasy (particularly comments in response to a certain question on Aidan Moher's Dribble of Ink blog).
This is easily explained. The comments and blog posts on that subject were sarcasm and attempted wit responding to a nonsense topic as well as to some folks who got very touchy over a nonsense topic. If that wasn't appreciated for what it was - shame on me for having an extremely dry sense of humor and shame on others for getting so bent out of shape over nonsense.
Fortunately for all of us, Alan Dean Foster's latest release - PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN - is neither science fiction nor fantasy. In fact, it is not even fiction of any kind whatsoever.
Part personal reminisce, part travelogue, part suggestions and insight for writers, part philosophical rumination on our place in the world and our relationship to the creatures who inhabit it with us, Predators is an entirely engaging series of vignettes that introduce us to animals that can - and have - eaten people.
It also takes us deep into the mind and philosophies of one of the most successful genre writers of our time.
Alan has had the good fortune to possess both the means and the desire to explore our world in ways that many would never dream of doing, nor would most want to (myself excepted and thoroughly jealous). Alan's excursions are not comfortable tour bus outings. He walks unescorted into giant ant infested Amazon jungles, dives into shark infested waters and even attempts to change a flat tire as lions pace mere feet away.
As we accompany him on these world spanning journeys we learn how truly fascinating the real world is; of how a fantasist can gain detailed inspiration from the real and turn it into other-worldly delights (if you have read any of Foster's fiction, you will no doubt recognize the origins of many of his planets and non-human characters).
I have completely enjoyed many of his fiction works, including the Pip & Flinx adventure series, the Spellsinger Series, the Icerigger trilogy and more. And in thinking back on my reads of those novels, I can clearly see the real-world influences Alan borrowed to make them as deep and rich as they are.
You will also, if you allow yourself, find a much deeper appreciation for the richness and beauty that is nature, of how much we are losing and perhaps some understanding of the responsibility we all have to preserve and protect the natural world.
Yes, you could say that various chapters veer off into environmental polemic, but it does not do so in a strident or lecturing manner. Rather, Alan takes us into his soul and shares the deep love and sheer joy he experiences from interacting with nature in the raw. You can't help but want to share those same experiences; valuable, humbling lessons can be learned from having a tiger stare down at you in the same way that we regard a menu in the local restaurant. Lessons that can not be learned by staring through bars or over the moat of a zoo. Most of us will never be able to experience such things first hand (and often through all fault of our own). As a second hand experience (the only kind available to most), Predators delivers an exciting, compelling, thoughtful, witty and fun ride. I highly recommend it.
Predators I have Known is available as a pre-order Kindle book from Open Road E-riginal publishers and will hit the stands on February 22nd ($14.84, 206 pages).
BONUS: Alan agreed to be interviewed and that interview will be appearing here on PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN's release date - February 22nd!
What did you think of this review?