by Wen Spencer
Baen Books, Copyright 2003 by Wen Spencer
Books about noble, ageless elves who contemplate the artistic wonders in life tend to turn me off somewhat. I dont find them interesting. Wen Spencer, on the other hand, has written a science-fiction/fantasy hybrid which is totally engrossing and believable.
The premise of the story revolves around an alternative universe arrangement, where neighboring universes include one in which elves rule, and another where the darker Japanese-inspired oni hold sway. Both the elves and the oni rely on magic and biological constructs for much of their daily lives.
For years, both elves and oni have come to earth through natural portals. But when Pittsburgh gets uprooted and planted in Elfhome due to a faulty Chinese generator, this creates government agencies, cross-world trade, and social interaction. The power which keeps Pittsburgh on Elhome is shut down every month for a day, which allows the city to stock up on goods and for people to move from one world to the other.
The main character of the story is Tinker, an 18-year-old genius, well tinkerer. She owns a scrapyard, and she can basically make about anything she wants. During a shutdown, an elf royal is chased by deadly oni constructs into Tinkers scrapyard, and with a little ingenuity and luck, Tinker is not only able to save him, but keep him alive until Pittsburgh is translated back to Elfhome and elf magic can heal him.
The attack is the first phase of an oni attempt to take over earth, and it propels Tinker into a series of adventures, car chases, kidnappings, sexual awakenings, and transformation.
The premise on the book is unique and fascinating. But more important to the novel is Spencers abilities to write. Her characterizations are full-fleshed and authentic. Her actions sequences are exciting. When Tinker gets out of jam, there is none of the deus ex machine so common to less-talented authors. Tinker, while a genius, uses rational, if clever approaches to handle her challenges.
I also have to mention sex here. Tinker is an 18-year-old virgin at the beginning of the book, and her sexual awakening is part of the storyline. Quite frankly, most fantasy and science-fiction novels handle sex very poorly, if it is mentioned at all. Most sexual passages are highly unbelievable. But I believe Wens writing. Tinker is a genius, but she still has a normal curiosity about sex, unlike brainy characters in other books who seem not to be afflicted with hormones. As Tinker goes through this part of her maturation process, I felt that this was right on, this was authentic.
Tinker is funny, witty, exciting, and plain fun. I highly recommend it.
For more reviews
or to buy this book from Amazon.com, click here.