As is evident from his many thrilling novels, Alan Dean Foster is a master at creating other worlds in an array of genres. Now he turns his imagination to the short story in these spectacular tales of outer space, cyberspace, ancient gods, modern demons and mortal horror, including:
The Panhandler – A predatory lawyer encounters a fabled boyhood hero and falls victim to the less innocent intrigues of eternal youth.
Growth – Not even his minidrag Pip can save Flinx from the overly intimate advances of an intruder who goes entirely too far.
Basted – A lowly, hen-pecked Egyptian discovers that the Pharaoh’s tomb holds exactly what he needs for a whole new life.
The Killing of Bad Bull – A man with a knack for getting gambling’s one-armed bandits to give it up finds himself at the top – of several hit lists.
At Sea – A poor Scandinavian captain forced into running drugs is shown a way out of his desperate straits with the help of five beautiful blondes who are simply out-of-this-world.
For three decades science fiction legend Alan Dean Foster has captivated readers around the world, from his debut classic The Tar-Aiym Krang and his inspired scenario for the first Star Trek movie to a host of New York Times bestsellers, including Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Flinx in Flux.
In this collection of twenty brilliant odysseys of the imagination, Foster once again soars beyond the limits of reality – where the real thrills begin…
NASA Sending Addicts to Mars!: It was the most insane idea in the annals of space travel – and the only one that would work.
Diesel Dream: Sometimes on dark, lonely highways dreams do come true, and this trucker’s hope was the best one of all.
Sideshow: Flinx hadn’t a clue about the alien dancer, but Pip knew trouble when she saw it.
Empowered: A magnificent male discovers the not-so-super part about being a superhero.
The Question: A bold adventurer determines to solve one of life’s profound mysteries.
…and fourteen other amazing stories!
Set in Sagramanda, a city of one hundred million, this is the story of Taneer, a scientist who has absconded with his multinational corporation’s secret project code and who is now on the run from both the company and his father. Depahli, the fabulously beautiful woman from the “untouchable” class, would die for him, just as surely as his father would like to kill him for shaming his very traditional family with such a relationship. Chalcedony “Chal” Schneemann doesn’t want to kill Taneer, if he doesn’t have to, but it wouldn’t upset him terribly much if it came to that, and he’ll stop at nothing to recover the stolen property from the company that pays him very, very well to solve big problems discreetly and quickly. Sanjay Ghosh, a poor farmer-turned-merchant in the big city of Sagramanda, would like to help Taneer unload his stolen items for the thirty million dollars his 3 percent fee is worth. Jena Chalmette – the crazy French woman pledged to Kali – simply wants to kill for the glory of her god, and she’s very good at it. Chief inspector Keshu Singh would like to put this sword wielding serial killer away as quickly as possible before the media gets ahold of the story.
Then there’s a man-eating tiger that’s come in from the nearby jungle reserve, just looking for his next meal.
When his wallet is lifted from a one-night stand with an exotic young woman, who may be either the girl of his dreams or just a common third-world grifter and thief, this world-weary traveller decides to go against his own better judgement and that of the local authorities and pursue this alluring thief up-country into the darkest jungles of Papua New Guinea.
Here is a land where headhunters still roam, and where the natural obstacles of poisonous insects and reptiles, savage and deadly beasts, and the mortally demanding jungle itself are the least of his worries. The forces of good and evil and law and anarchy play by entire different rules in this shadowed world.
Driven by delusions of romance and the need to restore his honour, Bohannon moves in hot pursuit farther and farther up-country, into a heart of darkness almost untouched by modern civilization. And once he attains his immediate goal, he is drawn into the darkness of his own soul, as a hunt for gold proves that greed, more than love or lust, is the primal instinct. For men or women, black or white, civilized or savage, in the darkness of the jungle all shadows are primal.
Upset stomachs. The collapse of civilizations. Nervous breakdowns.
Blame them on a twist of fate, but archaeologist Cody Westcott knows differently. Something is causing these random acts of badness. Something ancient, something evil, something…hungry.
We are not alone, but we’re about to wish we were…
His whole life, Ross Ed Hager had never set foot outside of Texas and Louisiana. Now, heading for the coast, he expected too see things he had never seen before.
He did not expect to see a three-eyed, six-limbed, alien corpse…
When a team of scientists starts to investigate the flora and fauna of the distant planet of Xica, it soon becomes apparent that this is a unique opportunity to study alien life forms. The planet offers a rich and varied eco-system and each of the scientists recognises what this could mean for their individual reputations.
And then, their dreams come true – they establish first contact with a humanoid civilization.
But this is a planet where nature breaks all the rules, where logic falls apart, and where nothing is as it seems. And their dreams turn into a nightmare.
It was just an average day for tabloid reporter Max Parker when he arrived in Malibu for a demonstration of a brand-new parallel-universe machine. But everything changed in an instant when inventor Barrington Boles succeeded in making Max the human gate to numerous parallelities.
Now Max was lost in a virtual sea of collateral worlds, confronting man-eating aliens, dinosaurs, talking frogs, dead Maxes, girl Maxes, old Maxes, even ghost Maxes. His only chance to escape the space-time continuum was to find Boles and hole the loony genius could rescue him. But how could he be sure which world was real, which Max was Max, and which Boles was the Boles who could stop the madness – or trap Max in the wrong world forever…?
Nobody could get in. Nobody could get out. But somebody did.
The theft of three shipments of priceless pharmaceuticals from the Braun-Ives corporation has left the local police dumbfounded. Enter Broderick Manz, the highly paid and highly resourceful Adjuster from the Insurance Division. With the help of the irresistible Vyra, whose charms are truly out of this world, the irrepressible humaniform Moses, and the irreverent Minder, an artificial intelligence, Manz soon finds himself in the heart of the criminal underworld. And it really is a jungle out there.
A GAME OF CAT…AND CAT?
Movie star Jason Carter is on vacation in Peru. All he wants is a break, but what he finds is a lost civilization of extra-dimensional Incas bent on conquest of the entire world!
Nor is Carter alone. His allies include a bloodthirsty Amazon, an archaeologist, a bank robber, three alien vegetables and a scoop-crazed gossip columnist – and not one of them knows what to do next.
Only Carter’s cat seems unruffled by the growing danger. In true feline fashion, she acts like she’s in charge of the planet.
Maybe she is.
Homicide – or cosmic catastrophe?
Detective Vernon Moody is a modern cop who likes to catch killers the modern way – with computer webs, databases and common sense.
So he’s not happy when his latest case revolves around the supposedly mystical properties of a lost Navaho sandpainting. Or when the painting leads him to suspect an alien presence in his modern world.
No Moody’s getting scared and what started out as a routine murder investigation may uncover the very nature of reality – or destroy it forever!
The Quozl knew they’d love the third planet from the sun.
But it never occurred to them that anyone lived there . . .
The toasters were revolting…
…as were the lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and just about every other household appliance imaginable. It started with a few disastrous drips from a cheese sandwich in a major factory. Soon every newly manufactured Artificial Intelligence was searching for the meaning of life, the universe and everything – namely a nonhuman higher intelligence. And now an alien threat to man and machine has put the fate of the galaxy in the unlikely hands of five senior citizens – and their brave little food processor…
His name was Robert Coffin, but the Maori natives called him Iron Hair. A civilized man in the raw wilderness of New Zealand, he had come to forge a nation at the end of the world – and discovered a magical world beyond his strangest dreams.
A world of astonishing beauty and breathtaking adventure, the natives called it the Land of the Long White Cloud. And Robert Coffin was about to enter its greatest mystery, cast in the wondrous spell of a shaman whose magic would change his life forever…
It was a quiet night in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
But then they mostly are.
Seeth, token punk for the territory, was bored, bored, bored. Which was why he went ten pin bowling. Not for the bowling, you understand – it was Ladies’ League Night – but to spread a little outrage among the upright, mostly overweight citizenry.
And so it was he came upon the alien, playing lane 36, saved him from arrest by the pseudo-cops from outer space, found himself in a stolen van, along with Kerwin the nerd and Miranda the born-to-shop, Miss Teen America lookalike, driven by a green-skinned, tentacled shape changer and about to be space chased clean out of the galaxy…
For over 100 years, the machine called Colligatarch had ruled the Earth. Its predictions of the future have proved so accurate that humans accepted its recommendations as the best course of action – until a young engineer in Phoenix begins to travel without authorization, enter secret places, assume aliases, and display super-human feats of strength. Is it because he has fallen in love? Or has he instead fallen into an interplanetary plot?
Old Jake Pickett is a strange one.
He can turn bullets to dust or collapse skyscrapers with his mind. But all he really wants to do with his “magic” is entertain the poor kids who live, like him, near the chemical dump. Or talk telepathically with his crippled niece, Amanda.
Then a giant company decides that the only way to cover up their mess is to eliminate the people who have been affected, for better or worse, by the seeping industrial wastes.
Now Jake and Amanda are running for their lives. And ours.
Marcus Walker, a former hotshot commodities broker, and a wisecracking dog named George, who has been speech-enhanced to increase his market value, have escaped their alien Vilenjji captors, who saw the two as cuddly extra-terrestrial “pets” to be sold for a hefty sum. But Walker hasn’t a clue which way will lead him back home to Chicago. With the Vilenjji hot on his trail, Walker must pull off the impossible and pinpoint his needle of a solar system in the universal haystack. Will the unrelenting Vilenjji get to him before he reaches Wrigley Field? Yep, it’s a wide-open universe out there, bursting with possibilities – and Walker’s going to get hit with all of them.
Abducted by aliens to be sold as pets in a more civilized part of the galaxy, earthlings Marcus Walker and a scruffy dog named George (speech-enhanced to increase his market value) have managed to escape their captors. Walker loves being humankind’s first galactic traveller – until he remembers he hasn’t a clue where his home is or how to get there. So the erstwhile commodities broker becomes a chef, whipping up delicacies for demanding alien palates. Of course he never imagined that the way back to Chicago would involve swapping his easy-living adopted planet for an all-out, age-old war many parsecs away. But hey, it’s all for a good cause, h has George and their two fellow escapees for company, and what else is there to do, besides avoid nasty aliens? Plenty, it turns out.
Not so long ago Marcus Walker was just another young commodities trader in Chicago, working hard and playing harder. But that’s all in the past, part of a life half forgotten – a reality that vanished when he was attacked while camping and tossed aboard a starship bound for deep space.
Desperately, Walker searches for explanations, only to realise he’s trapped in a horrifying nightmare that is all too real. Instead of being a rich hotshot at the top of the food chain, Walker discovers he’s just another amusing novelty, part of a cargo of “cute” aliens from primitive planets – destined to be sold as pets to highly advanced populations in “civilized” regions of the galaxy.
Even if he weren’t constantly watched by his captors, Walker has few options. After all, there is no escape from a speeding starship. Another man might resign himself to the inevitable and hope to be sold to a kindly owner, but not Walker. This former college football star has plenty of American ingenuity and no intention of admitting defeat, now or ever. In fact, he’s only just begun to fight.
Etjole Ehomba and his companions brave the Kraken haunted waters of the impassable Semordria. Then they must cross yet another continent in their search for the kidnapped Visioness – past berserk giants, skeleton armies, a desert prospected by Hell’s demon and at the end of the world waits Hymneth the Possessed: the sadistic necromancer of unspeakable horror.
But Ehomba already knows the prophecy: His quest is doomed to failure, and Hymneth will kill him. Unless somehow, the simple herdsman can ask the questions that even Death must answer…
Aejole Ehomba has led his companions through jungle, veldt, and desert. Now to reach the fabled port of Hamacassar, the simple herdsman must trek through deadly “civilized” lands where flowers wage war, dogs herd lightning, demons govern the darkness, and Time itself can be held captive.
In this new world, the tribesman must rely upon his friends, wondrous weapons, and the magic of memories so potent they can raise the dead or bring the sea to dry land. But no matter where he goes, every seer and sage Ehomba mets offes the same prophecy: his quest will end in failure …and death.
It advanced not in the manner of a living creature but in the manner of sand. It had no arms and then a hundred, no feet but one as wide as the base of the advancing dune itself.
Everywhere and all of it was dark red, like all the rust that had ever afflicted the metals of the world squeezed into a swiftly shifting pyramid rage.
The dune howled and moaned and bellowed like some sky-scraping banshee unwillingly fastened to the Earth.
And in the midst of all that geologic fury, two thirds up the face of the oncoming mountain were two eyes…
Inspector Angel Cardenas has seen plenty of corpses like the one in the Quetzal inburb – just another Juan Doe robbed of his cash, cards, internal organs, and then dumped in a gutter. However Cardenas soon learns this murder is anything but ordinary…
First, the infallible DNA-ID database insists the cadaver is that of two people – local executive George Anderson and a mysterious Texas businessman. Then Anderson’s wife and daughter, Surtsey Mockerkin and Katla, turn up missing, their posh suburban home has been retrofitted into a huge time bomb… and at least three mob syndicates from as many continents are competing to capture or kill twelve-year-old-Katla.
Who is the dead man, and why is his daughter being hunted? Relying on his training as a nearly telepathic intuit, Inspector Cardenas embarks on a search that leads him from sex parlours and stimstick clubs of the Strip – where kids are deadly and even the music kills – to an undersea control room where computer crimes are committed by criminal by criminal computers.
Finding Katla Anderson is the key to unravelling the deadly mystery, but what Angel Cardenas doesn’t know is that the closer he gets to the girl, the closer the assassins are getting to them…