“The Mind Pool“ by Charles Sheffield
Review ©️ 1993 by P. Douglas Reeder
The Mind Pool is an embroidered tennis shoe. I admire the work that went into the stitching, but wonder why it was employed on such a mundane object. Sheffield piles a number of subplots onto a trite main plot: an experimental cyborg device goes insane, becomes implacably hostile to life, and must be tracked down and destroyed. Despite being the nominal plot conflict, the problem of the killer “Morgan Construct” is eventually shuffled off with a one-line rabbit out of a hat. Also, at the end of the novel, there is once again a Morgan Construct on the loose, but no one feels any need to go after it.
The novel is much concerned with the three known races of aliens. However, they first appear to demand that the search teams for the Morgan Construct be composed of one member from each of the four races and the humans have no military training - an albatross-around-the-neck requirement which is not impossible, granting that aliens think differently, but one which is obviously there for literary reasons, not because it makes sense. In fact, the problem of humans and aliens learning to work together may be the main conflict of the book and the killer cyborg to be merely background. If this is what Sheffield intended, the beginning of the book badly clashes with the rest, by presenting the cyborg plot as central. Also, then, the main plot would not start until halfway through the book.
Sheffield's depictions of how the humans and aliens interact varies from believable at first to grossly implausible at the end. Small group interaction is a fertile ground for fiction; unfortunately toward the end Sheffield makes no attempt to describe anything realistic and postulates mystic alchemical results.
The characters were very stagy: I never cared about what happened to them. This is not through lack of skill or effort - it feels like Sheffield is doing some weird artsy thing. You may be able to relate to them; I couldn't.
However, after the premises are set and before the hunt begins in earnest, everybody is still gearing up and there is a fair amount of material I found enjoyable to read.
Sheffield is not a bad writer and he has put a good deal of effort into this novel, but his style is artsy and baroque. If the aforementioned problems do not bother you (they bothered me a great deal), you may enjoy reading this.
%A Charles Sheffield %T The Mind Pool %I Baen Publishing enterprises %C Riverdale, NY %D copyright 1993 %G ISBN 0-671-72165-8 %P 420 %K SF %O paperback $4.99 %X rewrite of "The Nimrod Hunt"