I became a Wen Spencer fan after Barbara-the-pusher (my affectionate nickname for my specialist bookseller who treats enabling as a God-given duty) gave me Alien Taste to read. From there it was a case of 'the rest is history' and I've read everything she's written, I watch her livejournal and hang out for hints and tipbits of her upcoming books. I read Tinker from the library when it came out in hardcover, then bought my own paperback copy when that was released. I have several books that sit on my bookshelves unread because I'd read them by borrowing them from a library or a friend, but still needed my own copy. Tinker was one of these. When the sequel, Wolf Who Rules, was soon to be released, I spent a fair bit of time tossing up whether or not to buy it in hardcover. In the end, I succumbed to the temptation and ordered it. However, with my poor memory, there was a lot of Tinker I didn't remember, along with a few things I hadn't fully grapsed the first time around and I wanted it all to be fresh and clear before starting Wolf Who Rules.
I finished my reread today - and loved it the second time around, which is always a good thing.
Tinker is set in a near future Pittsburg, where twenty years earlier a hyperdimensional gate was opened to facilite travel to the stars, with the unfortunate side-effect that a neatly circular section of Pittsburg got transported into an alternate reality called Elfhome where magic is stronger than on Earth. In the past, natural gates existed and it was through those that limited travel had occured between Earth and Elfhome, leading to humanity's legends of elves. Once a month, the gate is shut down for 24 hours, returning Pittsburg to Earth and allowing the influx of goods, ideas and travellers.
Tinker is eighteen, a genius and has lived her entire life in the Elfhome part of Pittsburg. She runs a scrapyard and spends much of her spare time putting her huge intellect to work inventing pretty much anything she chooses. As the book begins, the Elven noble, Windwolf, is chased into Tinker's scrapyard and injured just as Shutdown begins. This leave her stranded with him in Pittsburg on Earth without the benefit of magic to help him heal. With some help, she manages to keep him alive and finds her life forever twisted up with his and that of the all the elves.
Add to this some serious culture clash and misunderstandings and the reappearance of an ancient enemy of the elves who see Tinker and her genius as a way to open their own gate to Elfhome for an invasion and you have a clever, swift and intelligent novel that moves at breakneck pace and leaves the reader fully satisfied.
On my first reading, I had a little trouble with some of the scientific principles of just what had happened to Pittsburg and how the gate effects worked. Rereading cleared this up very nicely for me as instead of being thrown in at the deep end in the first chapter, I was able to take the worldbuilding as clarification that helped me 'get' Spencer's world much more clearly. The same was true of the gate physics, that became significant in the last quarter of the book. It is well-written, without large amounts of technobabble or handwaving, so don't be afraid of the word 'physics'. It was much clearer this time and I can now head into Wolf Who Rules happy knowing that I pretty much understand what has gone before.
I gave this book 9/10 last time and I'm giving it 10/10 this time. Spencer has real talent - not to mention that all three of her series so far are very different from each other and her current work promises to be different again - and I suspect I will continue to buy her books in hardcover now that I've broken the first time. I won't be able to wait long enough for the paperbacks.