This book was first published in 2009, by a small publishing company that went under. It was republished in 2016 by another, more successful small publisher, and the author has since sold a story set in the same world and a sequel, Tinker’s Sea. The setting makes a review timely. A credible future world, recovering from environmental and social collapse, faces a plague.
Title: Tinker’s Plague
Author: Stephen B. Pearl
In the twenty-second century, a Tinker—a preserver and fixer of old technology—must step up when someone unleashes a plague from a long-concealed laboratory.
We’re in a future Great Lakes Basin, not deep space, and Pearl’s environmentalist leanings might baffle certain writers from SF’s Golden Age. Nevertheless, this novel recalls, in its idiosyncratic way, the adventurous SF tales of yore, with a brave, intelligent, independent engineer-hero leading the charge to save the day, in a novel that explores plausible, speculative science and science-based dilemmas. Pearl’s contemporary take on that kind of story will prove irresistible to many readers, and I will be reading the sequel.
Apart from some issues with characterization, discussed below, I had concerns with the presentation of aspects of the future society. I found the world Pearl created to be plausible, and accept that, post-collapse, societies would fragment and some would become barbaric by contemporary standards. But the gleeful relish with which Pearl presents judicial systems worthy of medieval Europe and contemporary Iran left me cold. Over the course of the novel he seems less to be depicting torture-as-justice than celebrating it. I cannot applaud the flogging by bullwhip of a man who is dying of cancer, no matter how evil that man might be.
Story: 5/6 Pearl has written a page-turning tale.
Characterization: 4/6 I like the main character. Indeed, the related short story, “Tinker’s Toxin,” immediately led to my purchasing this novel. Much of the supporting cast lack depth, and the story’s villains all but twirl their various mustaches.
Emotional Response: 5/6
Overall: 5/6 If you want to read a post-environmental-collapse adventure story with a techie hero and a bit of the feel of classic SF, you want to seek out this novel.
Pearl recently gave an interview, which may be found here, in which he discusses the ongoing “Tinker’s World” series.
In total, Tinker’s Plague receives 33/42