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Terminal World

Terminal World - Alastair Reynolds

Alright plot summary time. In the far flung future much of humanity, about 30 million people, lives on the outside of a gigantic atmosphere piercing spire known as Spearpoint. The world, beginning with Spearpoint, is divided into zones. Technology thats works in one zone will break and become junk once it crosses into another zone. This goes for people and animals as well, (it's never really explained why so your just left to say assume nanomachines or something) cross into another zone and without special medication a person will become sick and eventually die. All this leaves Spearpoint with different districts and levels of technologies in them. For example, the district Steamville, is run by mostly steam. Below that the district of Horsetown, was described to be a squalid mess (with a name like Horsetown, I figured that would be Reynolds' approximation of an old west genre; thankfully the book spends little time there).


Anyway, on top levels live one of the books two main antagonist's, the angels. The angel's, are you guessed it, a district of a rail thin winged post-humans.


At the beginning of the book our protagonist, an angel named Quillon, who has been disguised to look human, is working in a morgue in the mid level district of Neon Heights after an infiltration mission went wrong and he killed two of his angel co-infiltrators. After a near dead angel drops on his autopsy table Quillon is told to GTFO or die, so he goes to his friend Fray, a man with the connections and means to get him out of the city. We're introduced to Meroka, a foul mouthed extraction specialist and away the plot goes off like some kind of runaway train.


Now on to my review. I initially liked this book a lot more than I did by the end. The first hundred pages or so were interesting . My only gripe being that Reynold's did nothing to answer the looming questions about his world. Like why does it have this crazy messed up zone system at all? (it's more or less explained eventually, but thats at the end of the book) About 3/4th's of the way through it I started to really get into it again, but it never really answered many of the questions I had. Like is this Earth in the future or just an earth-like planet? The answer is implied at the end, but never really defined.


Another quibble I had with it is that the initial plot line, the one that leads Quillon out of Spearpoint, is completely discarded and swapped for another near the beginning of the book. The new plotline is...well it's kinda like Reynolds played through a couple Final Fantasy games just before writing it. Our characters are rescued by an airship captain, they fly all over the world, have adventures, fight air pirates, and help foil a mutiny. It's not bad or badly written, but at the same time it didn't feel exactly scifi either (much of this book doesn't).


Other stuff? How about a steampowered, showtune spewing criminal mobster? Yes the book has a man who is connected to a wood burning boiler via cable for steampower. That do anything for ya? Eh? Well then how about carnivorous cyborg dogs that trade synthetic drugs to miscreants in exchange for prisoners they can suck the brains out of?


In summary, the story wasn't bad, the world was interesting, and the characters were detailed and richly flavored, however, I don't think I can give this book more than 3 stars. The way the original plot was so totally discarded, the unanswered questions I had, and the way the plotline kind flattened out in the middle all conspired to leave me kinda meh about it. Hoping his next offering is a little more inspired.