scifi blog — Terminal World

Terminal World
by Alistair Reynolds

Got half way through the audio book and gave up. It’s too, well, too childish, for me. Airships, single line story telling, didn’t like some of the characters. I might come back to it at some point and give it another chance, but, right now, it’s lost me.

Ok, I came back to it, and it did indeed pick up.

The world has been fleshed out with some interesting detail. There’s an understated, clearly quite complex, world history. Many questions remain unanswered, although a lot can be worked out from the story — the trouble is, each answer adds another ten questions.

There’s enough of the world unsaid for more books, which is why I am surprised at the description of this book as a one–off. The ending, although symbolically good, leads much scope for a future story.

The characters were a bit too, mmmm … stock, not people, to satisfy me. It’s much the same set of standard personalities you find in many "gritty" tales. I’ll give Reynolds that at least they developed in the story. But there were some scenes which would actually be extremely difficult for the people involved, and Reynolds simply doesn’t address those difficulties.

The plot, well, it’s all there, but it’s overdone. I feel as though there’s an element of conspiracy theory paranoia in there somewhere — you know, the paranoiacs believe everything happens because of “the conspiracy”. Everything happens in this book because of the plot. Real people in real situations aren’t like that, not even the driven ones. There’s not enough air here, there’s not enough reality. Yes, it’s a work of fiction, science fiction, so of course there’s no reality in that respect — but that’s the problem, the overtight plotting makes that unreality worse. Ok, this line of thought is very much a matter of personal taste; if you’re a reader who loves a tight plot, you’ll like the book.

So, overall, I don’t think this book pushes the boundaries of Science Fiction forward. On the other hand, it’s closer to some of the interesting edges than a lot of material out there.

Not a book to search out, but worth picking up if you happen to find a copy lying around.