Review: Spinneret, by Timothy Zahn

Spinneret cover artSpinneret, by Timothy Zahn (ebook version from Open Road Integrated Media, 2012)

In the year 2016, Earth’s first starship sets out on Project Homestead: a mission to find a planet to colonize. They soon discover a problem: the habitable planets are already taken!

The best the humans can do is to lease a planet nobody else wants due to its complete lack of metals. The cost and risk factors push what was to be a UN mission onto the Americans. The planet is dubbed Astra, and humans’ first colony begins.

When all metals – including a bulldozer – literally sink into the ground, the colony seems doomed. Until the planet proves to contain an ancient artifact worth more than anyone imagined.

Suddenly everyone wants it: the aliens and the UN. But US-appointed planetary leader Colonel Meredith and the people of Astra won’t give up their new home.

As well as learning to work with six diverse alien races and trying to fend off a UN takeover, the Astrans have to overcome internal differences. What began as a military-run effort faces the transition to civilian government and the threat of a coup from within.

This is a fun science fiction novel with Timothy Zahn’s trademark mastery of political and military tactics. Spinneret was printed in 1985 and released as an ebook in 2012. It’s still relevant conceptually and in terms of the issues it raises about immigration and international politics.

Naturally some of the “historical” events mentioned haven’t happened (like the 2011 Mexican Collapse). The characters still use cassettes, but they also have star drives (invented by Canadians, thank you very much). Still I doubt we’ll reach the projected date of space travel in 2016.

Spinneret is one of seven of Timothy Zahn’s hard-to-find novels released by Open Road Media in ebook format, and they’re all worth reading. My personal favourites on the list are Blackcollar and The Backlash Mission (Blackcollar #2). I really like the covers for these ebooks… some of the original paperback covers are very, well… eighties-ish.

My copy of Spinneret is an advance review copy, and there are a few typos that may have been corrected for the retail version. The font is a bit unusual and although attractive it can be hard to read on the smaller display settings. Lower-case letters with stems (like b, f, l, k) aren’t much taller than the shorter ones, which makes it easy to confuse f with r, i with l etc. Especially in a science fiction novel with unusual names, this can be a problem.

Still, to read these earlier books from a master in the genre, the ebooks are an easier choice than hunting the Internet for used copies of the paperbacks. (Thanks, AbeBooks, for helping me complete my collection a few years ago. I’ll be upgrading to ebooks over time.)

Hugo Award winning author Timothy Zahn writes in the Star Wars universe as well as in those of his own creation. You can find him on Facebook. His next scheduled release is the Star Wars novel, Scoundrels, releasing in early 2013.

[Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair review.]