Seth's Reviews > Tinker

Tinker by Wen Spencer
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's review
Nov 06, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, sf-f-h
Read in November, 2007

This one's fun. A nice take on the cross-world SF/Fantasy hybrid with good politicking on both sides of the divide and some fabulous surprises along the way.

In particular, I like the way the main character's specialness is worked into the plot without breaking suspension of disbelief and the way her flaws and youth are handled.

Basic setup: the Chinese government steals some not-quite-done research on making a star drive and builds it, not-quite-understanding how it works. The result is a probably working star gate (colony ships are reporting back, but it's a one-way trip so far, with no gate at the other end) but the side effect is a resonance point in PhiladelphiaPittsburgh that sends the whole city to Elfhome, another dimension with elves and monsters and magic.

As a compromise, the gate is shut down for one day a month, pulling PhillyPittsy back and allowing trade and diplomatic relations between humans and elves.

Our protagonist, who goes by the cognomen Tinker, is a mechanical genius who runs a scrapyard in PhiladelphiaPittsburgh and tinkers with machines (like her line of souped-up racing hoverbikes) on the side. She becomes involved with the elves and spends the one-day shutdown protecting a near-dead elf prince from assassins and smugglers. As a result, she gets pulled into cross-world intrigue and develops a much closer relationship with the elves than almost any humans.

Fun stuff. High tech works, but no power is available on most of Elfhome. PhiladelphiaPittsburgh has power stations but humans don't have access to magic training. They can buy pre-printed spells, though, and make use of those alongside their machines. The elves are incorporating human design and technology into everything they can without the sometimes-unfortunate side effects of magical activity in a strong electromagnetic field. And Tinker starts to make sense of it all.

The author throws us some great surprises. Tinker's relationship with the elves winds up much closer--and more complicated--than expected. The history of elven interaction with Earth is far more complex than any human knew (and even the few elves and half-elves who have been trapped on earth in hiding for thousands of years don't know the whole story) and human western culture turns out not to have a monopoly on this fact-based cross-world mythology.

The relationship side of the story is pretty well handled, although you have to make allowances for Tinker's limited access to boys and limiting all-science training from her slightly nuts grandfather while growing up in an under-populated PhiladelphiaPittsburgh. Her strange upbringing (her grandfather used stored sperm from her 10-years-dead father to in vitro impregnate a surrogate with an egg from an already-dead woman and raised Tinker on science, math, and engineering) explains some of her odd and naive interactions with men she's attracted to or who are attracted to her.

The elf she rescued is an interesting character, if a little flat. He isn't quite the Charlaine Harris male (i.e., only there to make the lead female clearly desirable), but he can be close at times. He may come into his own in the sequel, which is named after him instead of her.

Read this one for the fun setting and the fun intrigue, but read it especially for two major plot turns: one about halfway through and involving Tinker making a poorly-informed, if not at all bad, decision and the other about 2/3 of the way through when the antagonists of the book reveal themselves to come from a mostly-unexpected direction.

The book also has four of five very nicely written action set pieces, including a very entertaining and readable hoverbike chase, a great assault by a powered-up magic user, several escapes from potentially devastating guards, and a fun sequence fighting back against a mind reader/illusion projector.

I haven't read the sequel Wolf Who Rules, but friends liked it, so I have hopes for it.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Werner (new)

Werner Seth, I liked your review, but I have a question. The review of this book in Library Journal, and a number of Goodreads reviews that I've read as well, all agree that the city where Tinker lives is Pittsburgh, not Philadelphia. Is it possible that the references to Philadelphia in your review are typos? (If so, I figured you'd probably want to know! :-))

You make this book sound intriguing, and if I didn't have so many books on my to-read shelf now, I'd add it! (A lady in one of my groups refers to her to-be-read pile as "Mount TBR," and I'm afraid that describes mine, too.) But once I've moved some of those books to the "read" shelf --hey, I'm a sucker for add-ons! :-)

Seth Hrm. Oops! Once you get East of Arizona it's all the same to me. :-)

I'll change it. Thanks for the catch!

message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner No problem, Seth! Glad I could help.

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