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.
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. 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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Sly sci-fi flavored with futuristic steam punk.
“Terminal World” was hard for me to rate, I dithered between 3 and 4 stars because even though it’s smart, crazy imaginative sci-fi, it left me feeling unsatisfied. The problem is that this book seems unfinished. It’s supposed to be a stand-alone novel, but I thought it left too much hanging. There is no continuation to this story in any other of Reynolds books and I’ve no idea if any is planned.
Also, the iTunes summary of this book doesn’t really convey much. Not their fault I suppose - it’s hard to describe. So I’ll have a go.
Originally published in 2010, “Terminal World” is set in the remote future. The “zones” striate the entire Earth and they restrict the ability of people to live from one “zone” to the next as well as the level of technological functioning that is possible. Due to the ebbs and flows of human civilization over the millennia, no one really knows what caused the “zones”. They’re just part of life and are spoken of in quasi religious terms.
The story deals with the dawning suspicion of some, that the zones aren’t necessarily part of the natural order of things. Then, during the course of attempts to develop a drug that would allow people to move more freely between zones, a catastrophic shift in the zone boundaries occurs.. As a result, the tenuous remains of civilization on the terminal world is threatened. But also, the door to discoveries that may free mankind from the tyranny of the zones for good is opened. This back to the future theme is paralleled by the personal journey and transformation of our lead character.
Ultimately, the reveal is partial. The people of “Terminal World” aren’t going to untangle 10,000 years of mucked-up history in the few weeks this story covers and neither are you. What made me finally go for the 4 star click, is an ingenious little riddle that Reynolds incorporates into his story. If you know a little, and pay attention to the hints dropped throughout the book, you will realize something about the “Terminal World” that is really intriguing and that its inhabitants don’t know. It’s what makes me hope Reynolds continues this story someday.
I love Reynolds work. It’s hard, dark sci-fi, hugely original and intelligent. His dialog is reminiscent of hard-boiled detective type stories, which I’m not a fan of, but he works it, and John Lee is his perfect narrator. My biggest criticism of Reynolds is that he tends to overindulge in incidental dialog that sometimes neither advances the story or helps with character development. But what he fritters away, he makes up for with some of the most haunting and memorable imagery and atmosphere to be found anywhere in science fiction.
“Terminal World” is flawed, also ingenious. It’ll leave you wanting much more - and a little less.