Grief is, in fiction as in life, a pretty solid motivator for good and ill. The Gospel of John points out that Christ grieved alongside sisters Mary and Martha before the miraculous resurrection of their brother, Lazarus of Bethany. Similarly, it is Hamlet‘s grief, and later that of Ophelia, that leads to a tragic end for two families.
In Timothy Zahn’s Soulminder, it’s the grief felt by Dr. Adrian Sommer over the loss of his young son that motivates, to the very point of obsession, his search for a way to safely capture and contain the human soul. The grieving father narrative is nothing new – it’s easily as well worn as grieving sibling and grieving child tales like those mentioned above – but Sommer’s is still somehow different.
In a typical narrative, once the ability to conquer death has been established, the next step is simply for our forlorn father to attempt to wrest his child from whatever lies beyond. This inevitably ends poorly.
Louis Creed, for example, discovers that the thing he brought back surely wasn’t his darling Gage in King’s Pet Sematary (and yet still he doesn’t learn!) Animal Man‘s Buddy Baker, in his stellar New 52 incarnation, tries to leverage his familial connection to the primal force called the Red to resurrect his son Cliff, only to be driven from the Earth and further imperil his wife and daughter.
Obviously, examples like these serve to warn the reader that power used selfishly has a way of undoing itself. Yet our Dr. Sommer instead creates the Soulminder to help others avoid the pain and loss that he felt. But does this open the door for healing and happiness, even redemption?
I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.