Spinneret by Timothy Zahn is a stand-alone science fiction book set in the future of our world. Mankind has discovered the means to travel out to the stars, but when they do so they find that they’re not alone. Worse, they find that there’s nowhere to go. All available planets capable of sustaining life have been claimed and colonized. It’s only after some time that mankind finds the world of Astra, a world poor in minerals, but uninhabited. The UN puts the United States in the position of footing most of the bill, providing the necessary minerals to fertilize the soil, and provide the colonists to work and populate the planet. All of this is more frustrating by the UN coming into the main interstellar trading partners and mankind now being on the lowest rung of the ladder when it comes to interstellar relations.
This review may contain some spoilers, though I’ll try to minimize them.
The humans on Astra are led by Colonel Meredith. As this is a military operation, he has full control even of what happens on the planet. However, he’s soon challenged by Cristobal Perez, a charismatic leader who wants to turn Astra into a haven for the poor and downtrodden masses. Dr. Peter Hafner is a geologist trying to make sense of the planet’s lack of minerals. Carmen Olivero starts off her time on Astra as a resources manager. Soon we learn that the workers are feeling mistreated, which Perez uses to force starting a citizen’s advisory council where he has a large say in what goes on. We also learn that despite the massive fertilization efforts on the colonists’ part, it seems that the soil just doesn’t maintain the mineral level needed.
Dr. Hafner searches for an explanation and realizes that the makeup of the planet shows almost a complete lack of minerals when there should be an abundance. No remains from meteors are left, despite the obvious traces of meteoric activity. The mountain ranges are wrong. All of this comes to a head when all metal on the planet is suddenly dissolved into the planet. This corresponds to strange gravity anomalies and discovery of a cable that defies all known physics.
Soon the characters are fighting off a hostile takeover by the UN, aliens, the US, and people within their ranks as they try to figure out more about this Spinneret. They find a cave containing the still-functioning machinery of the mysterious Spinners and try to determine how it works. They work on translating controls, freeing up equipment, and working out how they can maintain their safety and freedom in a universe that wants this mysterious cable at almost any price. Will they succeed? Will they find the alien race who made the special cable? What was this cable created to do? Read Spinneret and find out.
Timothy Zahn has written another great story set in a compelling universe. The characters interact well, have believable backgrounds and desires, and work with and against each other in manners that fit what we know of them. The balance of alien cultures introduces an interesting dynamic to the story.
Who Will Like This Book?
Anyone who’s a fan of Timothy Zahn will appreciate this reprinted book. If you like science fiction without technology that borders on the fantastic, you’ll appreciate this. There are no space battles, weapons of mass destruction, or mystical influences. The characters use the technology known to us and that which is supports the plot without it ever seeming over the top or out of place. If you like science fiction at all, read Spinneret. If you like the idea of an ending that leaves just a little bit to the imagination, you’ll appreciate this. The loose ends are tied up, but you can still speculate about what happens next.
Who Will Not Like This Book?
If you’re not a science fiction fan, you probably won’t appreciate this. The science fiction is part of the story, but it is present. If you want massive space battles or stories spread out across the universe, you won’t find them here. The action takes place mostly on Astra with some off-world adventuring as the story progresses. If you’re looking for a book that starts a new series, this is self-contained.
Disclaimer: I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher with no expectations on their part. I was not influenced in any way by the publisher. The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.