Alastair Reynolds is, I’m ashamed to say, one of those authors I hadn’t yet gotten to reading. Terminal World, his latest novel, caught my eye and I decided that it was time to finally read some of his work. I’d obviously heard of him, and actually, he has becoming quite a prominent name in the science-fiction genre. Terminal World also marks my return to that genre in quite a while since, as some of you might have noticed, I tend to lean more towards fantasy than science-fiction. However, I do definitely enjoy it, and Terminal World was no exception to that. Though it is not without faults, it was, in its own respect, a thoroughly entertaining read.
Blurb: Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different – and rigidly enforces – level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains…. Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon’s world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angle is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint’s Celestial Levels – and with the dying body comes bad news. If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint’s base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever have imagined. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon’s own survival. For the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but the very nature of reality – and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability….
Events build up quite quickly in Terminal World but until the characters reached Swarm, it wasn’t really very interesting to me. It was enough to keep me reading but not much more. Once Quillon and his companions had reached Swarm though, it the pace of the book picked up and things of actual interest started coming up. From then on it’s a very fast read that throws a surprising amount of detail at you for a stand-alone novel.
Unfortunately, a lot of the more interesting world-building elements are never explored much, something understandable in a standalone novel, but then again, why introduce them if they won’t play a part in the plot, and/or will not be explored as part of the background? Usually that’s not something that concerns me, beyond the want to know everything little thing about this futuristic Earth, but a lot of the things Reynolds showed us felt like he wanted to expand it but never quite got to it. Personally, from the scope of the novel and the way it ends, I could easily see it get a sequel (or two), something that might just be part of Reynolds’ plan.
I liked Quillon quite a bit. He’s not the most interesting character I’ve ever read but he had, or actually did, something that a lot of writers don’t have their characters do: Quillon just tells his secrets to anyone who just pushes a tiny little bit. This might sound strange to you, so let me explain. Quillon has a big secret (which I won’t tell you), and throughout the book he meets a number of people to which, it seems, he just freely tells this big secret. I like this because it skips the steps where Quillon would be in denial and trying to continuously hide this secret. A lot of times that’s plain boring. In fact, a lot of characters in this book are very honest to others, perhaps unrealistically so, but at least it lets the story move along, which in Terminal World, felt like it was more essential than character realism/development.
My first Reynolds book, Terminal World was far from disappointing.It certainly makes me look forward to reading more of his work, be that forthcoming or some of his previous novels. Though it may lack slightly in polish, Terminal World makes up for it in its wealth of originality, mixing true science-fiction with steampunk and even some western elements. A great read for any who wishes to get an exciting sci-fi/adventure book.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 15 and up
Violence: Yes, some
Sex/Language: Quite a lot of language
Alastair Reynold's website: http://voxish.tripod.com/
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