The I Inside by Alan Dean Foster (1984)

July 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm (science fiction)

I had to share the incredibly cheesy pulp-era-style cover of this book, which has been lurking on our shelves, unread, for some time:

That would probably be why I hadn’t read it, even though I generally like Foster’s work.  I’ll give the artist some credit: the female protagonist is indeed brown, not white.  Needless to say, however, nothing like this scene (or either costume!!) appears in the book.  Ugh.

So, Eric Abbott is a design engineer who’s led a quiet and unassuming life in Phoenix, AZ.  He has no idea why a momentary glimpse of a woman in a passing car sets him off on a journey to find her, except that he’s in love.  Lisa Tambor obsesses him; and when he finally meets her, amazingly, she falls in love with him, too, and they decide to escape to the interstellar colonies.

There are a lot of things not right with the situation, of course, not least of which is Abbott’s sudden tendency to display superhuman strength and reflexes.  The way no one (including the lady herself) will tell him why Tambor can’t leave her job and marry him is really annoying, though I suppose they were all correct that explanations wouldn’t change his attitude and would have been a terrible breach of security.  Abbott’s stalkerish behavior is unnerving, and might be particularly disturbing to some, but at least he remains polite about it almost all the time (and apparently truly can’t help it).

Of course there are explanations of most things, which eventually get a Dramatic Reveal, followed by other and even more interesting revelations.  The story also involves exposure of dystopic elements in the near-utopia that has developed on Earth thanks to the influence of the Colligatarch, a supercomputer that suggests solutions to problems of all kinds.  From that angle, it’s not just an SF adventure story, but also a mildly didactic one.

Overall, it’s an amusing light read.  To my mind, other than the dated future technology (no cell phones or meaningful Internet!), the book’s biggest flaw is that Foster is really not at his best when writing romantic dialogue.  I mean, really not at his best.  Which is too bad, since there’s a romance at the center of this novel!


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