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The Candle of Distant Earth    by Alan Dean Foster order for
Candle of Distant Earth
by Alan Dean Foster
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

This concludes the highly entertaining Taken trilogy. Marcus Walker, once a commodities trader, has come far closer to an impossible goal than even he had dared to hope. After having escaped from his Vilenjji captors, he and his friends - George (a Terran dog with enhanced intelligence and the power of speech), Braouk (a massive fur-covered hillock), and Sque (a small octopus-like alien of huge intellect) - have found allies in furthering their goal of finding their home planets. Now he and his Niyyuu allies (who have provided three spaceships) are in the skies of a serene planet far from the galactic civilization that rescued them from the Vilenjji.

They are puzzled by the reactions to their arrival. No answer is made to their polite requests for communication, and the natives flee from their vicinity. It does not take long to learn that the peaceable and gentle Hyff (who resemble teddy bears) have suffered invasions for centuries. The incursions are unpredictable but invariably violent and brutal.

Marc finds it impossible to abandon the gentle, dignified Hyff to their predicament, especially after their astronomers throw themselves enthusiastically into the search for the escapees' home-worlds. The rest of their population, delirious with relief that their visitors are not the dreaded Iollth, welcomes Marc and his allies with warm hospitality. He convinces his companions to assist the Hyff, and the latest Iollth marauders are defeated (much to their own disbelief).

The Hyff recall a visit by Braouk's people, which leads the small fleet to Braouk's world. For all their fearsome appearance, the Tuuqualians are peaceable homebodies as well as scientifically advanced; and the searchers spend a pleasant interlude while their astronomers consult with the Niyyuu. Braouk chooses to accompany them, to see the ending of the grand saga. They come at last to Sque's home-world where the search comes to a screeching halt. Her people are totally disinterested in helping inferior life-forms, despite all Sque's efforts to convince them otherwise. It would seem that the only ones who know the whereabouts of a tiny, unknown planet called Earth are the Vilenjji, who are still on the trail of their escaped assets and want to recapture them, not aid them.

Foster creates alien characters and races with awesome expertise. Myriad forms and cultures do not impede understanding and liking. The message, delivered in a captivating adventure, is that friendship is not based on appearance. (It is a lesson we all need to learn.) In the end, Foster delivers a neat little twist and a thoroughly pleasing conclusion that had me sighing with satisfaction and regret that the tale was over. This trilogy is a wonderful read.

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