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Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

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The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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REVIEW | Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds (Ace)

The world is fractured and broken. History of the world that came before is lost. There is one last enormous human city known as Spearpoint. Advanced technologies exists, but will only work in certain areas while places nearby are regulated to steam-powered technology or horse and buggy. Terminal World journeys from the highest steeps of the world to its lowest, most desolate desert plains. Techno-Angels, twisted humans, and coal-fueled men all vie for control and survival. This is a world of secrets that will not let them be wrestled easily from its grasp.

I should start this by saying Terminal World is my first Reynolds novel and from what I've heard not his typical milieu, but does still mix some aspects of the Space Opera genre that he is known for doing well. This is definitely not your typical steampunk novel and when you get down to it has very little to do with steampunk and quickly moves past where most of the technology is located. Sure there are airships and they are important to the plot, but given the complex nature of the world their use is well warranted and is not done just for aesthetic value. Terminal World is a world fraught with fractured technological and physical zones that it can often be hard to follow. As the story progress we learn just enough to infuriate about how this world came about.  Clearly some large scale apocalyptic actions occurred thousands of years ago, but no clear answers are to be had.

The story starts as an escape from Spearpoint, which moves along very quickly yet after that the story slows down considerably. Quillon is a pathologist living in one of the more technological areas of Spearpoint, but he is being chased after by the tech-style angels for something in his past. He quickly leaves Spearpoint where we get something of a grand tour of most of the city and some of the key players. Quillion and his guide Curtana are always at odds and closed off from one another, which makes it difficult to connect with either. At many points it is almost as if the story is an actual afterthought to the world-building and detailing forgoing development.

For me this was one of those Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill books. The closer you got to the top you learned you were nowhere near the end. I kept waiting for these big reveals or developments as there are lots of leading discussions that could blow this world into the stratosphere and outside of one major reveal nothing came as a surprise. Even with the problems there are many bright points to the book such as the cultures that have developed in the wastes of the world and the Swarm fleet of ships. The scale of the world certainly gives it an epic feel. But Terminal World gets bogged down by a snail's pace and many scenes that are unneeded to move the story further. I quickly tired of Quillion's medical scenes where every little movement was described. Reynolds certainly paints a detailed picture of the world, but it is at an overwrought loss to the characters and their story.

The biggest issue I had with Terminal World is the fact that it is at best half the story of this world and characters. Normally that isn't a problem for me, but nowhere on or in the book or anywhere online does it say this is part of a series. I give Terminal World 6 out of 10 hats. That score would have been better if I had gone in knowing what I was getting involved in. I definitely would have been half as annoyed at the non-resolution of the story otherwise. Things move along, but in the end nothing is answered after so much being built up. I was left intrigued enough that I would pick-up a sequel if any is ever forthcoming to get a resolution, but not until I have some assurance there is a resolution. This should definitely not be your first Reynolds and I wish I had tried another of his first, but it has inspired me to push Pushing Ice up on my to-read pile to see exactly why he is so revered.

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Little Red Reviewer said...

I recently finished Reynold's "Revelation Space", which is an older novel of his, and it too suffered from too much detail on the boring stuff, and not enough info on the really interesting stuff (culture, people's histories, etc), along with a lack of a satisfying reveal. Sounds like Terminal World has some of the same problems, but maybe Pushing Ice is better? I too would like to know why people go nuts for this guy, cuz so far he's not thrilling me.