Book Review: Soulminder by Timothy Zahn

I’m a big fan of Timonthy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, but Soulminder is the first non-Star Wars offering of his that I’ve read. I was happy to find it was up to his usual high standards.

After losing his young son in a car accident, Dr. Adrian Sommer dedicates his life to finding a way to save people at the moment of death. After years of work, he not only discovers the existence of the soul, but also finds a way to trap the soul in a machine outside the body to keep it from “moving on” while the body can be repaired.

Inside the machine, Soulminder, is like being stuck in the tunnel with the bright light, unable to move on or go back. When Sommer himself finds himself in the tunnel, he finds it peaceful, but not everyone else does, and back in the land of the living, a lot of people have their own ideas for Soulminder.

Over the ensuing years, Soulminder becomes used for all sorts of things that Dr. Sommer never intended: body theft, body swapping, slavery, political imprisonment, murder victims testifying against their killers, and more. As the limits are pushed further and further, Sommer must find a way to stop his creation from being corrupted from a medical miracle to an instrument of horror.

I’m not usually a fan of books that skip in time with each chapter separated by months or years, but this one actually worked. A big part of what brought it together was Sommer’s character arc, which runs throughout the book, and his ultimate solution to his mounting problems was brilliantly written.

In short, Soulminder raises a lot of interesting moral and ethical questions about its eponymous technology and the real-world problems and politics that play into them, framed excellently in a compelling human drama.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

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About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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