Home > Book, Genre, mystery, Review, scifi > Book Review: The Coin by Glen Cadigan

Book Review: The Coin by Glen Cadigan

A dime sits on a black background between the title and author name, both of which are on a marble background.Summary:
When Richard’s physicist professor uncle dies tragically in a plane crash and leaves him his coin collection, he is shocked to find a brand-new dime from 2012.  The only thing is, it’s 1989.  A note from his uncle states that the coin is important.  Richard thinks the answer to the mystery might be in his uncle’s personal diaries he also left him, but he’s not a physicist and can’t decipher them.  As the year 2012 approaches, Richard increasingly wonders what the coin is all about.

Review:
I had previously reviewed a book by Glen Cadigan, Haunted (review), whose concept I really enjoyed.  When he offered me this novella, I was happy to accept.  This fun novella tells an old-fashioned scifi mystery story in a way that reminded me of reading similar works from the 1800s.

Richard’s first-person narration follows a style similar to that used often in older scifi; it reads as if the main character is writing everything down in his journal for longevity.  It’s a cozy narration style that works well for the slow-moving mystery it tells.

This narration style also helps establish Richard into a well-rounded character quickly.  The reader almost immediately feels an intimacy with Richard as he discusses his sorrow at his beloved uncle’s sudden death, why he was close to his uncle, and his thoughts on the mysterious coin.  The uncle is, perhaps, less well-rounded but only in the sense that the reader comes to know him only through the eyes of a loving relative.  It thus makes sense that mostly his good qualities come through.

Cadigan artfully maneuvers Richard’s handling of the mystery from the days before the internet to present.  Richard first employs old-fashioned research techniques to try to figure out the mystery then loses interest.  With the advent of the internet, though, he regains interest and starts researching again.  This is completely realistic and reads just like what a person might have done.

Some basics physics of time-travel and time-travel theories are included.  They are written at the right level for a general audience reading a scifi book, neither talking down to nor being too technical.

What really made me enjoy the book was the resolution to the mystery.  I should have seen it coming, but I did not, and I always enjoy a surprise that feels logical when I think back on it.

So why four stars and not five?  The novella left me wanting something more.  It felt almost too short.  Like there was something left out.  Perhaps more time spent on Richard’s researching of the mystery or snippets from the uncle’s journals or some photos of the uncle and his airplane might have helped it feel more fully fleshed-out and real.  The old-school narration style was enjoyable but some additions of some of the types of things a person might put in their journal would help it feel more complete.  Even some simple sketches or perhaps a poem by Richard about his uncle, since he’s in the humanities, would have helped.

Overall, this novella is a fun new take on the storytelling method of having a character write in their journal about a mystery.  The science is strong enough to be interesting but not too challenging, and the result of the mystery is surprising.  Some readers might be left wanting a bit more to the story.  Recommended to fans of scifi classics such as The Time Machine or The Invisible Man.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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  1. June 7, 2014 at 4:09 am

    I also read Haunted by Glen Cadigan I didn’t know he had another novella. I am glad to hear you enjoyed this.

    • June 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Yes, I remember you reading Haunted as well. He also has a scifi detective series out now: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/394311.Glen_Cadigan

      • June 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

        I didn’t know that thanks for the heads up. I had a few minor faults with Haunted but I see that his sci-fi series is getting much higher ratings which is very promising.

      • June 10, 2014 at 8:24 pm

        Yeah I definitely thought the writing was stronger in this one than in Haunted, and the plots were good in both! I’m sure I’ll end up picking up the scifi detective series one day.

  2. June 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I think your description of the ending is exactly what I want from a mystery. I like to be kept guessing until the end, but I don’t want to be surprised because I haven’t been given all the clues or because the ending doesn’t make sense!

    • June 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Yes, precisely! I want to be surprised but not feel like I was misled or key details left out. I want to feel like I could have figured it out if I’d tried harder, lol.

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