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Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
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Terminal World (2010)

by Alastair Reynolds

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6942613,712 (3.44)1 / 40
Recently added byprivate library, SFF1928-1973, alaskayo, rns1963_2, weber93, rmjenkins

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**Semi-spoiler alert** The characters are believable. The setting is imaginative (it's apparently set on Mars 5,000 or more years in the future, but the people living there think it's Earth). Something went wrong...but after almost 500 pages, we don't know what, we don't know how the situation was resolved, we don't know if the main character succeeds or even survives...the story just ends without an ending. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
Fans of Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space series and his other vastly atmospheric space operas are in for a bit of a surprise in his latest novel, which owes more to China Mieville's Bas-Lag books and Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories than to the Clarke/Asimov tradition.

That doesn't mean it's bad, though -- far from it! While the lingering disappointment that there will be no hyperspace chase scenes or stars being sung apart via mind-bogglingly ancient and malign intelligences never wholly leaves the die-hard Reynolds fan reading this book, if that reader is also a fan of steampunk, as I am, there will still be much to enjoy in the story of Quillion, a fallen "angel", and his perilous journey across a barely-recognizable planet Earth in the extremely distant future.

Reynolds has long been classed in with China Mieville and others as part of science fiction's "New Weird" movement, largely, I think, due to his taste for the baroque and the grotesque he shares with Mieville (the Melding Plague that forms -- or deforms -- so much of the Revelation Space universe still creeps and grosses me out). With Terminal World he draws much closer to Mieville, especially to the Mieville of The Scar, most of which takes place on a floating city of hundreds of ships and boats lashed together to sail the oceans of Bas-Lag. Reynolds' counterpart is Swarm, the airship-based breakway military arm of "Earth's"* last city, Spearpoint. That's right: a flying city composed of hundreds of airships (not blimps, as we're disdainfully reminded several times by Swarm's residents). I defy any steampunk fan not to swoon at the thought.

Quillion's world has been the victim of a mysterious calamity, to create which Reynolds has taken the notion of a holographic universe and run with it to strange places. The planet is now riddled with zones of differing "resolution," which only allow certain levels of technology to work. Spearpoint is the nexus of this crisis and as travelers descend its downward spiral they proceed from "Circuit City" (which seems to enjoy our own present level of development at least) to "Neon Heights" (which seems to be in the 1940s or 1950s) down to "Steamtown" (!) and even to the point of "Horsetown" where nothing more complex and sophisticated than animal muscle seems to work. How this state of affairs has come to be is never fully explained but it has something to do with Spearpoint's original function as something radically different from just a corkscrewing platform on which to build a city. We learn only a little of this original function as it is lost, all but ancient history, close to completely forgotten.

If I give the impression that the world steals the thunder of the story and characters, that's largely the case, but that's not to say that there are not some compelling individuals populating the story. Curtana, female airship captain, can swash the buckler with any maritime hero of yore; Meroka, Quillion's guide out of Spearpoint, is tough and complex, as is Quillion himself in a different way. While he is out of his depth for most of the story, and often kind of helpless, he is sympathetic rather than annoying, and more than earns his keep before the tale is told.

I like to see Reynolds stretching beyond the space opera-or sci-fi/noir genres he's been comfortably writing in so far, and really wondering if there's anything he can't do. Do recommend.

*People refer to this planet as "Earth" but there are tons of hints within the novel that indicate this is actually a terraformed Mars slowly reverting to its original state, which I find utterly fascinating. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It...

As a big fan of its author, this book was a major disappointment. It’s not the different subject matter that makes this a lesser Reynolds’ book, but quite a lot of problems on a structural level. While the book starts promising, it quickly deteriorates, and I had to force myself through the final half.

Terminal World desperately needs major editing: (...) ( )
  bormgans | Dec 15, 2015 |
3.5 * A subtler book than it might appear to some who read it quickly for its action plot; the answers to some of the scenario's many mysteries (where is the story taking place; what is Spearpoint; what are the zones; etc.) are given, but sparingly so in passing doses throughout the book rather than in the big blocks of revelatory exposition one might expect in the typical sf adventure. My main criticism is that some passages went on too long: the ideal edit of the novel would probably be 100-150 pp. shorter. Still an enjoyable read. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
This is fun. An epic planetary romance with Vernor Vinge-like zones and punk barbarians and lots and lots of zepplins. ( )
1 vote Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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"And Earth is but a star, that once had shone." The Golden Journey to Samarkand, James Elroy Flecker
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The call came in to the Department of Hygiene and Public Works just before five in the afternoon.
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Book description
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 enforced - 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 angel 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 imagine. 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 by the very nature of reality - and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . . .
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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.… (more)

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