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Phylogenesis (Founding of the Commonwealth Series #1)

Phylogenesis (Founding of the Commonwealth Series #1)

4.3 6
by Alan Dean Foster

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In the years after first contact, humans and the intelligent insect like Thranx agree to a tentative sharing of ideas and cultures despite the ingrained repulsion they have yet to overcome. Thus, a slow, lengthy process of limited contact begins.

Yet they never plan for a chance meeting between a misfit artist and a petty thief. Desvendapur is a talented Thranx


In the years after first contact, humans and the intelligent insect like Thranx agree to a tentative sharing of ideas and cultures despite the ingrained repulsion they have yet to overcome. Thus, a slow, lengthy process of limited contact begins.

Yet they never plan for a chance meeting between a misfit artist and a petty thief. Desvendapur is a talented Thranx poet who is bored with his life and needs new inspiration for his work. Venturing beyond the familiar, Desvendapur runs into Cheelo Montoya, a small-time criminal with big dreams of making a fast buck. Together they will embark upon a journey that will forever change their beliefs, their futures, and their worlds . . .

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
The first in a new "prequel" series from one of the premier writers of fantasy and science fiction, Phylogenesis traces the origins of bestselling author Alan Dean Foster's highly popular novels of the Commonwealth (For Love of Mother-Not, The Tar-Aiym Krang, etc.). Here Foster presents the reader with a science-fiction spectacle that is a quest for both inspiration and redemption, beginning with the love of poetry and ending with the mutual respect and union of two worlds. Narrative threads of adventure and well-done characterization twine together to form a profound tale of conflict, interplanetary fellowship, and poetry's place in an always unpredictable and dangerous universe.

On the planet of Willow-Wane a precarious truce exists between the insectoid thranx and the smaller but much more aggressive community of the lizard-like AAnn. Rumors arrive that other sentient beings have arrived on the planet, a group of intelligent mammals called Humans. Desvendapur is a thranx poet suffering from a stagnant career and lack of creative inspiration. Unsure if the supposed secret colony of Humans at Honydrop is only gossip or a conspiracy of his world government, Des sets out to learn the truth in the hope of finding his muse again. Hidden in a secluded complex on a high plateau of ice and snow where none of the humidity-loving insectoids dare roam, Desvendapur discovers that there is indeed a human settlement on Willow-Wane. He learns that it is part of a huge project devoted to greater understanding and interaction between the two species. Through a series of liesandfalsified information, Desvendapur immediately gives up his identity as a poet to become a food technician at the complex.

Des studies all he can about this strange new race, even learning the rudiments of their unwieldy language. After inadvertently wandering outside into the snow, Des is saved by a man and suddenly finds his poetic imagination fired once more. Des is eventually transferred to the Amazon forest on Earth to take part in an exchange project. There, he meets Cheelo Montoya, a small-time criminal trying to gain a better position in a local crime syndicate. Cheelo is on the run for accidentally murdering a mugging victim, and together he and Des travel and learn more about one another and each other's race. Soon, AAnn forces are tracking them, as man and thranx become bound in friendship and eventually in blood.

As always, Foster manages to infuse his polished writing with a true sense of realism and easy readability. With a cast that ranges across three intelligent species and a number of class systems, we see how societies not only interact with other cultures, but also which internal problems, complexities, and intrinsic values are present within them at any given time. Foster offers a wonderful balance in Phylogenesis, instilling in Desvendapur a voracious muse for which he will sacrifice almost anything. This is more than just the hub around which the plot revolves, it's an utterly engaging element showing the true humanity of the creative individual. Foster is skilled at capturing several character traits at once, as well as at fashioning various underlying plotlines and dramatic tension. Again he gives us a perfectly-wrought and intriguing novel, with a multi-faceted narrative vision that allows the reader a greater understanding of the magnitude of such sprawling, poignant, and soulful SF elements.

Tom Piccirilli

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Some centuries in the future come the earliest days of contact between humans and the insect-like thranx. Both species carefully try to keep contact in the hands of approved experts, but the thranx have slipped a covert base into the Amazon rain forest. Desvendapur, a thranx poet obsessed with finding new sources of inspiration through contact with humans, escapes from this base into the jungle. There he encounters Cheelo Montoya, a small-time gangster fleeing a mugging that turned into a murder, a man with no poetry in his soul but abundant street smarts. Their initial misunderstandings and suspicion give way to cooperation, and then to friendship after the two survive an encounter with deadly poachers. The author of more than 40 novels, Foster does a fine job with his misfit heroes and even with his minor characters (such as the reptilian AAnn). He shows his usual mastery of narrative pacing and slips in a great deal of wry wit (the sexiness of a female thranx depends on the slenderness of her ovipositors). The novel will be a treat for those who have followed Foster's tales of the Humanx Commonwealth, to which this is a kind of prelude and which began way back in 1972 with The Tar-Aiym Krang, and can also serve as a splendid introduction to both the Commonwealth and its creator.
Kirkus Reviews
First of a prequel series developing the backdrop of Foster's Commonwealth yarns (Mid-Flinx, 1995, etc.). Humans have just contacted a number of alien races, chief among them the insect-like thranx and lizard-like AAnn. On planet Willow-Wane, thranx poet Desvendapur seeks fresh inspiration for his work, and he becomes fascinated by humans when he learns of the existence of a secret colony, part of a long-term plan to evolve an understanding between dissimilar races, located beneath a cold high plateau avoided by the heat- and humidity-loving thranx. With a series of creative deceptions, he forges a new identity as a food processor and attaches himself to the colony. Soon, a great success, he's transferred to the secret thranx colony on Earth, located beneath the Amazon rain forest. But here Desvendapur's given no opportunity to interact with the natives—and so, illicitly, he goes outside. In the jungle, he encounters Cheelo Montoya, a petty criminal on the run from a mugging-turned-murder. Neither being wants to be reported to the authorities, so both tell plausible lies and agree to travel together. Inevitably, they come to respect each other, cooperate when danger threatens, and eventually confess all. Meanwhile, AAnn spies suspect that humans and thranx are attempting to accelerate the hitherto leisurely process of forming an alliance. Desvendapur's deceptions are revealed; Cheelo surrenders after his friend dies of the cold, but he insists that the thranx's poetry be published. This forces a swift conclusion to the human-thranx treaty—to the consternation and annoyance of the rival AAnn. Like the Flinx yarns themselves: pleasant but of no great wit, originality, orsignificance.

From the Publisher
"Foster does a fine job with his misfit heroes and even with his minor characters (such as the reptilian Aann). He shows his usual mastery of narrative pacing and slips in a great deal of wry wit. The novel will be a treat for those who have followed Foster's tales of the Humanx Commonwealth."
-Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Founding of the Commonwealth Series , #1
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Random House
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483 KB

Read an Excerpt

No one saw the attack coming. Probably someone, or several someones, ought to have been blamed. Certainly there was a convulsion of recriminations afterward. But since it is an unarguable fact that it is hard to apportion blame--or even to assign it--for something that is without precedent, nascent calls for castigation of those responsible withered for lack of suitable subjects. Those who felt, rightly or wrongly, that they bore a share of the responsibility for what happened punished themselves far more severely than any traditional queen's court or council of peers would have.

For more than a hundred years, ever since there had been contact between AAnn and thranx, animosity had festered between the two species. Given such a fertile ground and sufficiency of time, mutual enmity had evolved to take many forms. Manifesting themselves on a regular basis that varied greatly in degree, these were usually propagated by the AAnn. While a constant source of vexation to the ever-reasonable thranx, these provocations rarely exceeded the bounds of irritation. The AAnn would probe and threaten, advance and connive, until the thranx had had enough and were compelled to react. When forcefully confronted, the AAnn would invariably pull back, give ground, retreat. The spiral arm that was shared by both heat-loving, oxygen-breathing species was big enough and rich enough in stars so that direct conflict, unless actively sought, could be avoided.

Habitable worlds, however, were scarcer. Where one of these was involved positions hardened, accusations flew more sharply, meticulously worded phrases tended to bite rather than soothe. Even so, the swift exchange of space-minus communications was always sufficient to dampen a potentially explosive confrontation. Until Willow-Wane. Until Paszex.

Worvendapur bent his head and reached up with a truhand to clean his left eye. Out on the edge of the forest the wind tended to kick up dust. Lowering the transparent, protective shield over his face, he reflexively extended his antennae through the slots provided for that purpose and moved on, striding forward on all six legs. Occasionally he would arch his back and advance only on his four trulegs, not because he needed the additional manipulative capacity his versatile foothands could provide, but because it raised his body to its maximum standing height of slightly over a meter and a half and enabled him to see over the meter-high, lavender-tinted grass that comprised much of the surrounding vegetation.

Something quick and chittering scuttled through the sedge close to his right. Using the truhand and foothand on that side of his thorax, he drew the rifle that was slung across his back and aimed it at the source of the noise, tensing in readiness. The muzzle of the weapon came up sharply as half a dozen !ccoerk burst from the meadow. Letting out a whistle of fourth-degree relief, he let a digit slip from the trigger and reholstered the gun.

Their plump brown bodies shot through with purple streaks, the flock of feathered !ccoerk fluttered toward the satin-surfaced lake, cooing like plastic batons that had been charged with static electricity. Beneath a feathered, concave belly one trailed an egg sac nearly as big as herself. Idly, Worvendapur found himself wondering if the eggs were edible. While Willow-Wane had been settled for more than two hundred years, development had been slow and gradual, in the conservative, measured manner of the thranx. Colonization had also been largely confined to the continents of the northern hemisphere. The south was still a vast, mostly unknown wilderness, a raw if accommodating frontier where new discoveries were constantly being made and one never knew what small marvel might be encountered beneath the next hill.

Hence his rifle. While Willow-Wane was no Trix, a world that swarmed with dynamic, carnivorous life-forms, it was still home to an intimidating assortment of energetic native predators. A settler had to watch his steps, especially in the wild, uncivilized south.

Tall, flexible blue sylux fringed the shore of the lake, an impressive body of fresh water that dominated the landscape for a considerable distance to the north. Its tepid, prolific expanse separated the rain forest, beneath which the settlement had been established, from inhospitable desert that dropped southward from the equator. Founded forty years ago, the burgeoning, thriving colony hive of Paszex was already sponsoring outlying satellite communities. Worvendapur's family, the Ven, was prominent in one of these, the agri town of Pasjenji.

While rain forest drip was adequate to supply the settlement's present water needs, plans for future growth and expansion demanded a larger and more reliable supply. Rather than going to the trouble and expense of building a reservoir, the obvious suggestion had been made that the settlement tap the ample natural resource of the lake. As the possessor of a subspecialty in hydrology, Wor had been sent out to scout suitable treatment and pipeline sites. Ideally, he would find one as close to the lake as possible that was also geologically stable and capable of supporting the necessary engineering infrastructure, from pumping station to filtration plant to feeder lines.

He had been out in the field for more than a week now, taking and analyzing soundings, confirming aerial surveys, evaluating potential locations for the treatment plant and transmission routes for the water it would eventually supply. Like any thranx, he missed the conviviality of the hive, the press and sound and smell of his kind. Regrettably, another week of solitary stretched out before him. The local fauna helped to divert his thoughts from his isolation. He relished these always educational, sometimes engaging diversions, so long as one of them did not rise up and bite off his leg.

From the Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946 and raised in Los Angeles, California.  After receiving a bachelor's degree in political science and a master of fine arts degree in motion pictures from UCLA in 1968-1969, he worked for two years as a public relations copywriter in Studio City, California.

He sold his first short story to August Derleth at Arkham Collector magazine in 1968, and additional sales of short fiction to other magazines followed. His first try at a novel, The Tar-Aiym-Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972.  Since then, Foster has published many short stories, novels, and film novelizations, including the New York Times bestselling Splinter of the Mind's Eye and Flinx in Flux.

Foster has toured extensively around the world. Besides traveling, he enjoys classical and rock music, old films, basketball, body surfing, and weight lifting. He has taught screenwriting, literature, and film history at UCLA and Los Angeles City College. He and his wife live in Arizona.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Phylogenesis (Founding of the Commonwealth Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Glitchster More than 1 year ago
Did I mean to write THANKS in the headline? NO.. I meant THRANXS. An alien species exclusive to Foster's scifi novel PHYLOGENESIS. A Thranks is 5 foot tall with eight useful appendages ( top two used as Tru-hands, next two called foot-hands, the rest are legs) that has the appearance of being your average intelligent and friendly preying mantis. I couldn't believe I read this novel with great interest. I'm sixty years old for crying out loud! But, when I began reading Alan Dean Foster's novel about these alien beings and one young poet renegade Thranks named Desvendapur aka Desvenbapur, I was taken away a few parsecs to an unexplored universe not traveled to by anyone in my domain. The Thranx poet Desvendapur becomes enthralled with the rumors of an alien species found somewhere a few light years left of nowhere. Through multi-segmented eyes of a Thranx poet did I begin a quest to learn as much as I could of the human species. Unrequited love of Jhywinhuran drives a love story weaved into the central plot of exploration. As well as, possibilities of a bloody conflict between Thranx and their reptilian alien enemies the AAnn. Allan Dean Foster's PHYLOGENEIS is an entertaining scifi novel for all ages. With slight aroma of C.S. Lewis's NARNIA (his books not the movie) versus PETER PAN, this makes for an excellents place to release your mind. This is the 1st novel of "FOUNDING OF THE COMMONWEALTH" trilogy. I'm looking forward to reading the other novels in this series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Humans and Thranx have a great deal in common. Including disgust at each other's physiology. The two intelligent species that experienced first contact in Foster's earlier novel, NOR CRYSTAL TEARS, are working on a carefully planned continuum of establishing relations as PHYLOGENESIS opens. Meanwhile, the reptilian Aan - who have commonalities with both the insectoid Thranx and mammalian Humans - would dearly love to add either, or both, to their own growing empire. Thranx poet Desvandapur dreams of making himself immortal by finding unique inspiration, the kind that he believes meeting and interacting with Humans might provide. When he learns of a tightly guarded Human enclave on his home world, the Thranx colony of Willow-Wane, he maneuvers himself into that enclave only to be disappointed at the level of contact it actually offers. Then he's thrilled to find himself chosen to join a secret Thranx settlement on Earth itself, and disappointed yet again at not being able to spend time in Human company. So Desvandapur, who has already risked much for his art, sets off on his own into the heart of the Amazon. Where he meets a Human in an unsupervised setting, at last - who's not at all the kind of Human the rest of that species would have chosen to be their ambassador. This book is the first part of a trilogy, and as such it spends most of its pages setting up plot threads and establishing characters. It's a fun read just the same, because Foster's mastery at creating believable aliens (individuals and their social histories) is on full display here. One can feel Desvendapur's thrilled disgust at touching living Human flesh for the first time, right along with the character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Phylogenesis is the prequel to very many Foster books. In this series the founding of the Humanx Commonwealth and it's relations to other species of aliens are explained. The story starts on Willow-Wane, a thranx colony world on the frontier. One of the main characters is from a very prominent family, the Ven of Paszex, that unfortunatly is nearly wiped out by the AAnn who also have claim to the planet. Desvendapur is one of three survivors of the Ven family. He is an uninspired poet that looks at life for inspiration for his poetry when he comes across a rumor that there may be a colony of bipedal mammalians known as Humans living on Willow-Wane. Following a lead he decides to go in to have a closer look. In his attemp to stay he inadvertantly kills the pilot that flew him in and is forced to live at the colony as an eigth level food preparator. Being extremely adaptable he learns food preparation and all he can about Humans. After working for so long he is promoted and transfered to the Project. Unbeknownst to him the Project is on Earth itself, the Human homeworld. The Project is in the, now safe, amazon basin where few dare to venture except for tourists and scientists. Bored with not being able to interact with these strange creatures he ventures to the surface and meets a small time criminal trying to make it BIG who has accidentaly commited manslaugther and is hiding from the authorities. After a while they become freinds, and grow to like each others alien quirks. Frightened by the way the two species are getting along the AAnn, a reptilian menace from the frontier, decide to pay them a visit and things go downhill from there. I liked the way that Foster expands on the minds and customs of the, always shrouded in mystery, thranx. The book does however go into minute detail and there is not much dialogue. For that i am sorely disappointed. All in all it was a farely good book and I hope to read the following in the trilogy.
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