Alan Dean Foster,
To the Vanishing Point
(Warner, 1988; Wildside, 1999)

In all honesty, I found this book to be badly written and less than compelling. The dialogue between the characters, particularly that between the adults and the children (a 16-year old girl and 10-year old boy), was forced and often painfully artificial. The family is traveling to Las Vegas in a motor home because the father thinks a trip through the desert will be educational for his kids. They naturally are bored out of their minds. Then they pick up a hitchhiker, a girl who calls herself Mouse, who tells them that she is a millennium-old singer who must find her way to the Spinner and sing to him in order to keep reality from falling apart. The minions of Evil and Chaos remain dangerously close behind them as they journey through a myriad of horrible reality threads on their way to the Vanishing Point where the Spinner resides. Along the way, they pick up the janitor from Hell (literally) and a dwarfish chef who wandered into a post-Apocalyptic Salt Lake City. Will the group survive and get Mouse to the Spinner before reality snaps? Does the reader even care?

When Foster is describing action and crisis events, he does a pretty good job. Unfortunately, there are far too many sections of dialogue that ruin the book. The communication between the parents and kids in particular is wooden; the author seems to be trying too hard to mimic real intergenerational communication. The adults, especially the father, behave irrationally at times. One minute the father is threatening to dump Mouse on the side of the road, and the next he is ogling her beauty and promising to stay with her to the end. Whenever the family escapes one crisis, everyone behaves as if everything is normal again; when their son disappears, they forget about him rather quickly and even manage to go to sleep that night. The father constantly tells us how brave he is for having started his own business, yet he bemoans his own rampant cowardice just as often. Foster even seems to forget or ignore important plot points -- for example, the father grows four extra arms at one point, and then the topic is never addressed again.

The story itself is weak enough without being cursed with such bad characterization and dialogue. I was unable to like a single character, and I could not help but wince during several sections as I watched these puppetlike characters go about their mission. I know that Foster has written and sold many books, but "bad" is the only word I can use to describe To the Vanishing Point.

by Daniel Jolley
21 January 2006

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