by Hal Clement
Series: Needle 1
Reviewed date: 2018 Jan 4
Rating: 3
207 pages
cover art

The Hunter chases his quarry to Earth, where both aliens crash-land in the reef of an unnamed Pacific island near the vicinity of Tahiti. The Hunter's host dies, so he makes his way first to a shark, which beaches itself and dies. A group of boys shows up on the beach, and the Hunter makes his way into Bob Kinnaird.

The Hunter's code of ethics don't permit him to harm his host; his quarry, a symbiote of the same species, has broken that code, and now the Hunter must bring him to justice. But how to find him, when any one of the billions of living creatures on earth could be the host?

The first few chapters recount the Hunter's attempts to make contact with his host, Bob Kinnaird. After a few false starts, the Hunter convinces Bob of who he is and what his job is. Bob recognizes the importance of the Hunter's quest, and is willing to help. But the first problem is that Bob is away at boarding school in Massachusetts, and the quarry is probably still stuck on the Pacific island where he first crash-landed.

As Bob wonders how to get back home before school lets out for the summer, his odd behavior prompts the school doctor to order him home for a break. Back on the island, we are treated to a wonderfully detailed account of all the amazing fun that teenage boys can get into on a Pacific island paradise. It's fun, but drags on. Bob and the Hunter look for clues to see who the quarry's host could be. There are a lot of false trails and ambiguous clues, but Clement weaves in enough genuine clues that when we learn who it is, it doesn't feel like a cheat. (It's Bob's father, and the clues are that although he is by nature a cautious man, he is seem taking many small risks. The symbiote is protecting him from minor injuries, and as a result, he's unconsciously become sloppy about things such as wearing gloves to prevent splinters.)

The beginning of the book was really good, but then it turned into just too much about the activities of boys on an island paradise. Kind of fun, but boring too.

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