“Soulminder is an archangel, Doctor, so far as earthly creations go. I’m very much afraid that it’ll be beyond your ability to keep it from becoming a demon.”
Years after the tragic accidental death of his young son, Dr. Adrian Sommer has created Soulminder as the ultimate weapon against untimely deaths. An individual is hooked up to the machine and their soul map, or “Mulner Trace” is read and stored. Should accidental death occur, Soulminder traps the human soul upon its exit from the body. It stores the soul until the body can be safely repaired, at which point it’s returned.
Written by the Hugo-award winning Timothy Zahn, notable for his science fiction novels that included a run of Star Wars novels in the early 90s and again in the 2000s, expectations were high for his newest outing, Soulminder.
The book follows the evolution of the program, detailing the different moral implications along the way. It outlines religious concerns, different government attempts to use the human body and human soul for profit, and all the other different ways the program could be used for evil.
The main characters aren’t really developed that well in the story, because the focus is on Soulminders development. The characters are as follows:
Dr. Adrian Sommer: Co-founder and head of Soulminder. A morally guided individual who views Soulminder as a tribute to his deceased son. He sees it ultimately used for good and is deeply troubled by its dark side.
Dr. Jessica Sands: The other co-creator. Sees Soulminder as her one way ticket to immortality. Has barely any morals and views the dark side of Soulminder as inevitable.
Frank Everly: Head of security for Soulminder. Serves as a balancing agent between Sommer and Sands. He keeps a level head and is the true guiding compass in morally ambiguous situations.
Dr. Carolyn Blanchard: Works for Soulminder in a division that’s heading in a direction she doesn’t agree with. She catches Sommers attention when they’re both dealing with a crisis and he brings her on as part of the main Soulminder team.
At first, the book was very slow to read. Then Soulminder achieved notoriety, and the speed of the book grew proportionately with its fame. Zahn posed some great moral and ethical arguments while outlining Soulminders descent into chaos. Paraplegics get the opportunity to walk again; murder victims are testifying at their own trials and helping to identify their killers. Governments are killing their citizens, bringing them back and then exploiting their gratitude for indentured servitude. Drug addicts are renting other people’s bodies and getting high without any consequences to themselves. Sommer has to watch all of this happen, and it nearly kills him.
I was enjoying the book immensely. It really made me think, and the directions Zahn went in were pleasantly surprising to me. Then… it ended. And well… the ending sucked. They ruined my perception of Dr. Sommer and it made me really sad. The only good thing about it was that it redeemed Dr. Sands. That’s pretty much all I can say on the ending without spoiling anything, anyway.
However, books that have bad endings are at the top of my list of grievances, along with Crocs and the fact that McDonalds doesn’t serve all day breakfast. While the book seemed well crafted and the idea is a unique one that we haven’t seen too much before, when an ending can’t wrap things up tidily, or does but in the process ruins a readers perception of the story or even the characters, it makes the book feel a little empty.
Soulminder is available today in store and online.
This book review was written for publication on the GCE by Madie Horvath-Haines