cover image Soulminder


Timothy Zahn. Open Road, $14.99 trade paper (283p) ISBN 978-1-4976-4620-9

Zahn, best known for his Star Wars tie-in novels, weaves a near-future narrative about a machine that can trap the souls of patients hovering at death’s door. According to Dr. Sommer, the soul definitely exists, and it can be made to obey the will of science. Implications of this proposition mount up in interlocking stories, which make for an intriguing thought experiment. Each chapter looks at the ramifications of Sommer’s process, with his own opinions weaving in and out of the narrative. His work is used for both good and evil, which gives rise to some great ethical debates. Unfortunately, the contemporary setting is stereotypical (populated by South American dictators and ranting televangelists) and it’s hard to believe that no one else manages to develop rival technology. There are also times when Sommer’s security chief, Everly, is able to save the day too easily. The choice to skip from one moral issue to the next does hurt the narrative flow, but those who enjoy deep philosophical questions will appreciate being left with much to ponder. (Sept.)