On a faraway planet with a dense jungle ecosystem, a human colony ship accidentally landed generations ago. The planet killed all but a few hardy survivors and their offspring evolved, along with the jungle, into a symbiotic pseudo-human race.
A man named Born is one of the descendants of those few humans. In his early manhood, he is eager to prove himself a mighty hunter and a desirable mate for a girl he has a crush on. Among his people, who live in the trees, he’s somewhat of an oddity, unconventional and curious, daring to traverse areas of the jungle that are higher or lower than his people are usually willing to go.
On one of his risky excursions, Born discovers an alien (human) spaceship inhabited by people who have recently landed on the newly discovered planet, strayed from their base, and become lost in the hostile jungle. Being adventurous and brave, and wanting to impress the young lady, Born offers to guide them back to their base. He is accompanied by an animal companion who he is bonded to. As they attempt to reach the base, they face many perils such as boring insects (not boring as in uninteresting, but boring as in driving holes through things), and cleverly camouflaged carnivores. (Aside: Cleverly Camouflaged Carnivores sounds like a great name for a Metal band.)
The humans that Born is guiding turn out to be scientists who’ve discovered something valuable on the jungle planet. As you’d expect, they want to exploit the planet for this resource and, of course, this conflicts with the interests of Born’s tribe…
Alan Dean Foster has created a fascinating world which I enjoyed exploring with Born and his amusing animal companion. Born’s people live among the trees, never seeing the sun or the surface of the planet. Their evolution, the way they’ve developed a symbiotic relationship with the jungle, and the way this adaptation has influenced their mythology and culture is interesting to contemplate. We don’t even get the full view of it until the final striking sentences of the novel. I love this type of biological science fiction.
Foster’s world-building is the highlight of Midworld (1975). His characters and their dialogue and interactions are less memorable. The plot (which is a lot like the movie Avatar) is fairly simple. The prose is occasionally purple. It’s the biology that Foster does so well. I recommend it to readers who enjoy biological themes in their science fiction.
Tantor Media has recently released an audio version of Midworld with narrator Eric Martin giving a nice reading. It’s just over 8 hours long. Midworld is the first book in Foster’s HUMANX COMMONWEALTH series of stand-alone novels. I hope Tantor Media will be producing the rest of the series in audio format.