By Alan Dean Foster
Here's the definition of MacGuffin from our friends at Wikipedia:
A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction". The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is. In fact, the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot. Common examples are money, victory, glory, survival, a source of power, or a potential threat, or it may simply be something entirely unexplained.
A MacGuffin then is what drives "The Human Blend" and in theory the books that follow it. In this case the MacGuffin is a silver "thread" that is some kind of data storage device. A thief named Whispr finds this thread after he and his friend Jiminy Cricket (his chosen name, not his birth name) mug a guy in Savannah.
An explanation of the world this takes place in is probably in order. In this future (how far into the future I'm not exactly sure, but probably late 21st or early 22nd Century) flooding from global warming has put most of the North American coast under water. Cities like Savannah survive by putting the old buildings up on hydraulic platforms. (Others like Washington use dikes to hold back the waters.)
The biggest change, though, is with people themselves. Cosmetic surgery has allowed everyone to add all sorts of "melds" to themselves to alter their appearance. You can look like a famous celebrity, a historical personage, or even Big Bird. Though by this time, most people like Whispr just use melds to help them in their line of work. In his case, Whispr is ultra thin and quiet. Jiminy Cricket can jump long distances. Police are built like weightlifters on steroids.
Some, though, don't take melds, like Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. She's content to be just your normal young, hot blond doctor. She has a practice in Savannah and a comfortable life and a seldom-seen boyfriend. Then of course Whispr shows up looking for medical help--and with the thread.
Most of the book is devoted to various people like the assassin Mole (Mo-lay, not Mole) or some other assassins chasing Whispr and then Whispr and Ingrid to get the thread. Meanwhile, Whispr and Ingrid try to find out what it is on the thread.
Of course they don't find out what's on the thread, because that will be dealt with in future books. Future books I have no interest in reading because this one didn't really hook me. It was an OK sci-fi thriller, but it never rose to the level of Philip K. Dick or "Neuromancer." It's more "Paycheck" than "Minority Report" or "Blade Runner."
Or in other words, it's a competent book, but it feels paint-by-numbers. The characters aren't all that interesting and the uniqueness of the melds and the world these people inhabit just didn't come to life enough for me to really care that much.
But if you're less discriminating than me, you'll probably enjoy it as a beach/airplane/subway read. And maybe you'll be interested in following the Quest for the Thread. I'll just wait until the last one comes out and peek at the last pages to see if they throw it into Mt. Doom or not.
That is all.
PS: Foster does have a character call the thread a "maguffin" at one point, so at least he has a sense of humor enough to recognize this.