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Terminal World




No, this isn't about CN going the way of the dodo. I've decided to write entries for the books I read as I finish them and I just completed Alastair Reynolds' latest book. Spoilers may sometimes ensue but I'll attempt to avoid anything big or especially plot relevant and mark the more egregious examples. Now on to the book.

For those who don't know don't know, Alastair Reynolds is an incredible author of space opera trending hard towards, well, hard science fiction. I highly recommend his Revelation Space novels.

This one isn't space opera, but it does have a number of thematic elements that are common in his other book. Notably, he enjoys playing with people who have false memories/aren't who they think they are/the world is not as it seems. This isn't explored as deeply as in many of his books, but it is lightly touched on. The main character comes out and states fairly early on that he was in a project where his memories were removed and replaced with others to help with camoflage. He's aware of it, there's no mystery, it doesn't get touched on thematically. (Though Reynolds does practically hit you over the head with hints that this book is taking place on a future Mars even though the characters all think that the planet is Earth and he never comes right out and confirms it even if it's obvious).

Conversely, he has previously touched on the idea of vastly different civilizations coexisting together as a single civilization. This idea got ratcheted way up in importance in Terminal World. The effective setting is a world in which different "zones" are coneucive to different levels of technology in that technology breaks down as a result of the physical properties of lower zones.

The result is a towering spiral city where technology is literally higher the higher up you go, with genetically modified "angels" whose physiology can't even be sustained in the lower levels existing at the top. It's very reminiscent of Vinge for those who've read Fire Upon the Deep.

The result is that the part of the world that is explored in the novel effectively subsists using technology equivalent to steam punk. In fact, I think a good synopsis of the overarching premise is that it is about a post-singularity character living on a steam punk planet that no one in the story ever realizes exists in a space opera universe which is never really touched upon.

It's a bit of a departure from Reynolds usual novels, but you can still see the seeds of his ideas. I enjoyed it but I'm definitely hoping for a sequel to tie up some plot ends and flesh things out a bit.

If you like Alastair Reynolds and don't mind the departure from sweeping space opera, then you should probably enjoy Terminal World well enough. If you don't like Alastair Reynolds then you probably either haven't read his books or you aren't big on science fiction. If the former, I definitely recommend picking up his Revelation Space books or The House of Suns. 



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