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Setting the stage for the final book in the popular Pip and Flinx series, this intriguing first contact mystery ends on a cliffhanger without resolving a thing. In an otherwise unremarkable star system outside Commonwealth space, the planet Quofum seems to appear and disappear at will. A crew of xenologists sent to study the life forms that enjoy Quofum's earthlike atmosphere and alcohol-laced water oceans are shocked to discover four primitive intelligent species so unlike one another that they couldn't possibly have evolved on the same world, as well as a vast underground complex full of mysterious technology. While this novel may fill in background details for Flinx Transcendent, expected next year, it's hard to see why one needs an entire book of what is, essentially, backstory. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.