Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lost and Found

By Alan Dean Foster

Marcus was a Chicago commodities broker enjoying a nice placid vacation on the shores of a lake high in the mountains. Until the aliens showed up and grabbed him. And his tent and the ground under it and even a slice of the lakeshore. In effect, it was a little habitat, ready made for the new addition to their collection of strange and unusual creatures from the far-flung reaches of the universe, all destined to be sold as pets, slaves or entertainers for the more heartless denizens of galactic civilization. And their captors don't care if their captives are intelligent, thinking beings; no, all they care about is their monetary value.
Marcus lives a life of unbearable loneliness and boredom, eating the same bland rations provided by his captors, drinking the water provided to him daily. When he misbehaves, tries to break through the force field confining him to his little slice of Earth, he is punished by being deprived of food. He despairs.
His captors, to ease his despair, open one side of his prison to his neighboring captive, which is revealed to be a small dog, captured from an alley in Chicago. The dog's habitat is the noisome Chicago alley and a junked car. Marcus is so pleased with this new roommate and even more so when the dog actually talks to him. It seems the aliens, in order to facilitate communication, have boosted the dog's intelligence and installed universal translators into all the captives. And as Marcus soon learns, if he behaves nicely, he will be allowed into the huge common area where all the many captives are permitted to congregate and socialize. Of course, these new privileges are just a tool to bludgeon the captives with. The least step out of line and it's back to the tent and its slice of lakeshore.
Marcus and the dog, whom Marcus names George, manage to make friends with two of the most reclusive captives among all the aliens. One an octopus-like creature of such vast intellect that she regards all her fellow captives as beneath her notice. The other a huge, voracious beast that the other captives are simply terrified of. In fact, the captors toss Marcus into the beast's habitat as punishment for misbehaviour in the hopes, maybe, that Marcus will be eaten. Instead, Marcus manages to break through the monster's seeming beastliness to discover the fragile and sensitive heart of a poet, but a poet who is prone to violent rages.
Together, this unlikely foursome are going to try to use their talents to bust out of their hated prison.

This was a pretty good story. Marcus is an enterprising fellow and his sidekick George the dog adds a lot to the story also. The other two members of the foursome are less charming, as the monster tends to speak in haiku and the octopus is frankly unbearable, conceited, and rude. Still it was fun reading about their adventures aboard the capture ship. I do wish that the dog, George, had been more doggy. Most of the time, he sounded like a human. I mean, even if you could make a dog more intelligent, wouldn't it still be a dog? Wouldn't it still get a kick out of sniffing butts and eating garbage and rolling in manure? Other than that, I enjoyed the story a lot.

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