Book Review: “Spinneret” by Timothy Zahn

Chasing a new frontier, humankind sends a manned starship into the universe and away from the overpopulated Earth in hopes of finding a new planet to colonize. But every Earth-like world they discover is already inhabited. As it turns out, the universe is a very crowded place. An alien council offers to lease the one remaining uninhabited world: Astra, a bleak and barren but serviceable planet. The new settlement, though, quickly experiences serious problems, from dying crops to the mysterious disappearance of anything and everything that is made of metal. And then Astra reveals a secret neither the aliens nor the human governments could ever have imagined.

SpinneretMy first exposure to Timothy Zahn was years and years go when I read my first Star Wars novel and he launched me into a new world of books I’d never expected to enjoy. I only recently (about six months ago) discovered so many other works by Timothy Zahn that I never knew about. Spinneret is one of those works, along with many others I hope to read in the near future.

I got my copy through a Kindle Daily Deal a few weeks ago. Spinneret was a great read as a change of pace from what I’ve been reading lately. It’s a good chess match between characters where nobody is really the ultimate bad guy, they are all just trying to do what’s best according to their personal morals—morals that aren’t really all that bad.

Recently I’ve read a few science fiction books that deal with colonizing new worlds and discovering strange, dangerous, or violent surprises along the way. Most of those books tend to have very clearly defined antagonists and protagonists that are fighting against each other the entire time. Spinneret is a spin on the entire colonizing a new world concept that deals with no clear good guy or bad guy. Each of the main players in the book have their good moments and their bad moments and the ultimate resolution to the plot sees many of them compromising to make things work for all interested parties.

You might think that sort of thing would lead to a fairly boring story, but Zahn keeps that from happening. Just when you think things might be settling down there is a new twist to the story that spices things back up.

Spinneret mainly revolves around the tense situation that arises when a supposed volcano on the world Astra starts spitting out giant strings of apparently indestructible metal. This metal was a result of the planet mysteriously swallowing all other metal that was touching the ground in the new colony. No real explanation is given about how the metal is transformed and while the facility that makes it happen is found by the colonists there are lots of unanswered questions. I liked that. I liked being able to fill in the gaps a little on my own and letting the characters take center stage.

Timothy Zahn writes such well-developed and rich characters in his stories. I’m hoping that Spinneret was just a taste of the kind of things I’ll get with some of his other standalone novels I read in the future.

Length: 352 pages

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