Soulminder

soulminder-timothy-zahn

When it comes to stories outside the realm of Star Wars, Timothy Zahn writes some pretty interesting sci-fi tales. Soulminder is no different. However, Zahn’s approach to the story is unique. Rather than focusing on a single character or a strange civilization, he tackles the outcome of an invention. The crux of the story is what happens when you invent something so revolutionary that it changes the entire world? More importantly, how do you keep said invention from being misused? In Soulminder, they create a device that can store souls. The applications for the device are limitless, as are the abuses of such a powerful technology.

As an important as the invention of Soulminder is, there’s still a main character. Adrian Sommer is a doctor and a bit of a bleeding heart. The premature death of his son in a nasty car accident drives him to create a device that could have saved his son’s life. With the help of a talented electrical engineer named Jessica Sands, and years of trial and error, they manage to create a soul trap. With it, they can trap a soul when it leaves a person’s body. With the help of modern medicine, they’re able to repair a damaged body, and then transfer the soul back in, thus giving people a second chance on life. The invention makes them rich and famous, but with those trappings comes a heaping mountain of responsibility.

Half of the fun of the novel is seeing the simple idea become a complex monstrosity. There’s the way the device can be twisted for less than savory applications. There’s the political and legal fallout of the invention. Then there is the result of all these avenues crashing down on the inventors and forcing them to deal with the chaos they’ve unleashed. Given that the story doesn’t focus too much on deep characterization, the Soulminder device remains the primary driving force of the book. In fact the novel is very segmented in its delivery. The first part of the story is the development of the device. The second part is the formation of a company to support the invention. The third part focuses on the initial misuses of the device by other countries. The fourth part delves into further misuses and the out of control adoption by society. The fifth and sixth parts of the story setup the endgame, showing just how far things have gone, and forcing the inventors to try and wrest control back of their invention before the world is irrevocably changed for the worse.

The one bad thing about the story is the characters. They’re pretty shallow, and not a lot of time is spent on developing any of them. Adrian gets the most attention, and later on some new characters are brought in, but it’s never a character driven story. Hardly any of the characters get any physical descriptions whatsoever. Nevertheless, the story still gets by pretty good on the strength of the Soulminder device and its fallout. Again, this is a very plot driven story.

On the plus side, the segmented structure of the book makes this a very easy read. You can read the first few chapters and by the end of chapter two, it feels like a complete story. Each chunk has a nice beginning, middle and end as the overall idea of the Soulminder device progresses in its application. Toward the third quarter of the book, the focus character completely changes, making it feel like an entirely different story. Of course it eventually ties back in with the other characters, but it’s an interesting change up. On one hand the change of viewpoint character is off putting and maybe a little clunky, yet it is also refreshing.

In the end, seeing this device go from inception to out of control misuse is a very entertaining journey. Zahn explores how world changing ideas are not always a good thing. Sometimes brilliant ideas are just the start of a massive headache. The bigger the innovation, the more dangerous the outcome because change isn’t always a good thing and people don’t always change for the better. When you’re playing around with souls, you start playing around with some very dangerous concepts. In Soulminder, Zahn does an excellent job of exploring that concept and the horrors it can unleash. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis and recommend checking it out. It’s worth reading.

If you’re looking to get a copy of Soulminder, it’s available as an eBook via Open Road Media and you can get a paperback copy on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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