The Tar Aiym Krang
By Alan Dean Foster
Published by Audible Frontiers
Read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Tar Aiym Krang was the first of the Pip and Flinx series written by Alan Dean Foster. Later a prequel was added to the series so some lists place it as #2, but when I first read it, this was the only story that had been written about the young man and his flying venomous lizard (known as an Alaspin minidragon). It was also the first book written in what is now known as Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth.
Flinx (short for Philip Lynx), however, is not an ordinary young man, nor does he live on an ordinary world. He is a stereotypical street urchin who, as he matured, developed some interesting psychic powers, which he uses to make money by demonstrating them to passersby in the same way a busker might do a rendition of Tambourine Man. Pip, the minidrag, also has some sort of psychic ability which is part of his bind with Flinx.
Flinx was brought up by an elderly woman known as Mother Mastiff who, for some reason bought him in a slave auction and it is outside her shop that Flinx habitually performs his unique act answering questions from the crowd, such as “What have I got in my pocket?” Really. Trust me on this, had Bilbo Baggins happened by to ask that question, Flinx probably would have replied “You have the one true ring of power capable of controlling all the rest… Next question?
One day while doing his act, Flinx is asked to locate a red-headed man with a treasure map. As Flinx thinks about it, the man in question takes off with the askers in hot pursuit. Sometime later Flinx and Pip find the pursuers had just killed the red-head in question and when they, in turn, attack Flinx and Pip. The minidrag’s venom pretty much polishes them off, so Flinx helps himself to the map they had been trying to get.
The next part does not really fit in well. For no particular reason, it seems, two famous scholars hire Flinx to act as a guide. One thing leads to another and they all (with a few others) go off looking for an ancient artifact that may be a musical instrument, a doomsday weapon, or both. My first thought was that they might be looking for a battered penny whistle. I will not give away the rest of the story. If you can get past Flinx being hired for the interstellar trip (not the original contract was to just lead them to a particular house) then the rest of the story is an entertaining and exciting adventure with a few surprises along the way.
I have not read the entire series, but of those I have read, this first book is still my favorite.
It might sound inconsistent of me, but in many ways, I do not think Stefan Rudnicki resorted enough to funny voices and accents. If you are going to use them, do make each one different enough to be discernible. The whole reason to play with voices is to give each character a unique sound. The differences here were slight and sometimes oddly chosen – Why should Mother Mastiff have a slight Irish accent, for example? But the accents and mannerisms were so slight that it was easy to miss them. So while I give credit for being able to understand all the dialogue without having to tax my ears a little more differentiation, if you are going to differentiate at all, would be nice.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is a very thin line between unique vocal mannerisms and “funny voices.” Mister Rudnicki, thankfully, does not cross the line, but perhaps it might have been best had he taken half a step closer to it.
However, that only detracts in a very slight way from his reading of this story. Stefan Rudnicki has a deep, almost gravelly voice and the gravel never quite leaves it. The effect is not unpleasant, but perhaps that is why his vocalizing is not as flexible as some readers. If so, he does read well for all my criticism and perhaps knowing one’s limits is a mark of a true professional. He is really reading the story and only acting a bit as he reads. It could have been a lot worse and while it could have been better, I do not think it could have been all that much better.
So, the story is an interesting and fun one to read and Mister Rudnicki’s reading will keep you listening.