Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together: Tinker by Wen Spencer
Reviewed by Tee Morris
31 May 2004
I'll be the first to admit -- I've got very particular tastes when it comes to my science fiction and fantasy. It's a bit like my feelings towards chocolate. There are connoisseurs who prefer their chocolate being pure and untainted. I, on the other hand, have no qualms with another flavor such as hazelnut, raspberry, or peanut butter added into the mix. I feel the same way concerning my tastes in science fiction and fantasy. I don't mind a totally different genre coming along for the ride. A second (or even, third) genre brings a new depth to the story and its characters, provided the genres achieve a sense of balance. It's easy for me to enjoy a detective novel set in the future, or a strong romance budding between races in the middle of an epic battle between realms of good and evil. Crossing of genres can yield some of the most satisfying adventures, both in the visual and literary mediums.
However. . . .
There are certain mixes that make me cringe. With the respect to chocolate, it's mint. I love chocolate. I love mint. Combine the two, and I refuse to come near it with a ten-foot sword. The "chocolate mint" for me with science fiction and fantasy is the combination of science fiction and fantasy. The two work great on their own but fail miserably when brought together in one title. Every offering I've tried -- even Roger Zelazny's second Amber Chronicles -- has let me down. And every time I give this union another try, be it in book, film, or television, the end result always reminds me of the '80s epic blunder, Krull. A painful memory to relive, I assure you.
But if you are lucky, you might meet a character with an uncanny ability to make sense of the "jumbled mesh of science fiction and fantasy" and to create something entirely new. Such a character is Alexander Graham Bell, better known as Tinker, title character in the latest offering from award-winning author Wen Spencer. Spencer is famous for crossing genres in her Ukaih Oregon series for Roc, blending the best of science fiction, romance, and mystery. She has established herself as a writer without boundaries. With Tinker, Spencer doesn't bother with redefining boundaries. She tears them down!
Tinker's adventure begins in her Pittsburgh scrap yard, a few decades into the twenty-first century. She is about to make ready for "Shut Down," a blackout period for the city as a dimensional rift begins to close for a month's time. Now, if you think running a scrap yard that sits at the epicenter of a space-time anomaly connecting Earth and Elfhome (a realm where Elves rule and magic is only a spell-casting away) would be complicated enough, imagine how things get for the teenage Tinker when she rescues an elf attacked by a pack of magically-enhanced wargs (large beast-dogs that look at their prey as chew toys with a bit of life in them). Her good deed sets in motion a chain of events that includes everything from genetic manipulation and incredible sex to political double-crosses and government agencies screaming about their jurisdictions! In the middle of this multi-dimensional maelstrom is Tinker, a teenager with Stephen Hawking's I.Q. who is curious about boys, perfecting hoverbike techniques for the professional circuit, filling out her college application, and being hunted down by Elves, bureaucratic operatives, and demon-assassins.
Let's face it -- being a teenager is tough!
Tinker is a beautifully crafted, wickedly funny, action-packed adventure featuring a spitfire girl genius, elves armed with swords and sub-machine guns, and a demonic conspiracy of global proportions. Tinker is someone you enjoy spending time with. She calls things like she sees them and pulls no punches, verbally or physically. Like many tomboys, Tinker discovers that there's a bit of sexy in those smarts of hers. The supporting cast members are equally strong. Tinker's cousin, Oilcan (a play on his real name -- Orville), fills the "big brother" role, and you can't help but feel a little better when he's hanging around. He's that security blanket that makes you feel safe. The Elves fit the profile you expect from Elves, but what makes Spencer's Elves loads of fun is the humans' perspective on them. Instead of revering them, the Pittsburgh residents find them exasperating, slightly narcissistic, and a little snobbish. Tinker, however, gets to know them better, from the high-born Windwolf (the enigmatic noble who feels bonded to her by her life-saving deed) to the low-born servant Pony, a loyal (yet still wide-eyed) warrior honor-bound to safeguard her from any harm. But don't think these characters, even Tinker herself, are perfect. Character flaws and unexpected quirks round out this colorful cast of humans, Elves, and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.
Tinker has an exciting plot and likeable characters, but Spencer's elegant interweaving of the magic and mysticism of Elfhome with the sciences of Earth really makes the book a must read. Wen Spencer's girl genius turns Elf magic into the next level of quantum theory, manipulating Elven sorcery with "Mr. Wizard" science -- and it makes sense! The application of science fiction, though, does not take anything away from the mystery (or the romance) of Elfhome. There is still just enough unexplained to give Tinker pause. (And there is something very charming about her mental notations for running a few simulations and experiments to figure out how this magic really works!) With a seamless blend of physics and fantasy, Spencer's world is clever, desirable, and an extremely fun place to spend quality time. So, while I may still pass on the Peppermint Patty offered to me in social situations, I have discovered two favorite tastes of mine that taste great together! Strap yourself in for one wild ride on a hoverbike with Wen Spencer and Tinker, an adventure worth every page!
Copyright © 2004 Tee Morris
Tee Morris is one of the two authors behind Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana, an epic Fantasy adventure published by Dragon Moon Press. Written with Miss Lisa Lee, Morevi was a finalist for the "Best Fantasy eBook of 2003" Eppie, and can be found in both print and digital formats, online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores.