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Terminal World | [Alastair Reynolds]

Terminal World

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Alastair Reynolds (P)2010 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"A rousing adventure in a widly original setting." (Guardian, UK)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (804 )
5 star
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4.3 (540 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael springfield, MA, United States 06-17-10
    Michael springfield, MA, United States 06-17-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worthwhile slightly lacking"

    I give this offering from Mr. Reynolds four stars based on his masterful writing style as well as the narration of John Lee.
    However, the listener should be aware that this is a marked departure from his previous works, which many people list as genius among British space opera.
    This story is more of a quest novel, and the story flows more from the setting and the character responses to cataclysmic changes, rather than deep character development.
    Also, the main character has many similarities to the main character in Chasm City, i.e., mysterious past, assumed identity, and what will happen when the main character's true nature is revealed.
    That being said, if you are a fan of Reynolds, than it is a worthwhile use of a credit. And although this review may seem to focus on the negatives, I think understanding the book's shortcomings will actually increase enjoyability, because the listener will not anticipate familiar plot points and can appreciate the book on its on merits.

    30 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DAVID CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN, United States 09-10-10
    DAVID CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN, United States 09-10-10 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This ain't your fathers Alastair Reynolds"

    I listened to this book several month ago and like it. It was different from what I am used to from Mr. Reynolds, but I thought the story was solid and the characters were interesting and well developed. However, after listening to several other books, including Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett (omg, if you have not read/listened the these books yet, do yourself a favor, NOW!), I find myself comparing everything the Terminal World. I went back & listened to it agin. This is a really good book! Maybe I am a latent steampunk fan and did not realize it, but WOW, I really love this book! I think you should try to erase any vestidual remnant of Chasm City and Revelation Space from your brain before reading this book, because there is NO relation. If you are expecting this, it may effect your perception of this book.
    Also...
    My concept of the word 'terminal' has always been in realtion to death and dying. But, it also means 'end point' as in bus/train terminal. Keep this in mind when listening. Because of my educational deficit in this regard, I had pre-concieved notions when listening to this book the first time and it effected my opinion (amazing how titles & book covers can impact your perceptions!).
    ---
    As far as Narrator, 2 words... JOHN LEE. If he read the NYC phone book, I would listen to it...twice.

    36 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew United Kingdom 04-03-11
    Andrew United Kingdom 04-03-11

    Plotting to take over the world since 1969

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    "Well written, well read, but unsatisfying"

    As a Reynolds fan I thought I'd try this, knowing it was different from his other novels. Sadly, I've been disappointed....
    This story is very much a science-as-fantasy travelogue, as the protagonist (who goes from loner into someone who hopes to save all his friends) crosses a post-holocaust/steampunk style landscape on a future "earth" (actually Mars)....

    While the writing style is up to Reynolds usual excellent style, and John Lee's reading is very good, the story itself is the weak point ;
    The unusual sights the protagonist sees (dirigibles, sadistic post-apocalyptic punk gangs) have appeared in a multitude of stories before and unfortuantely Reynolds doesnt do anything particularly new with them. In addition, what ideas he does have that have potential new uses (for example, Angels) are not really used to any great extent and are more or less irrelevant to the majority of the book....

    As a result the storyline itself is over-familiar, and ultimately unsatisfying. While not actually bad, this is not a strong selection from Reynolds otherwise excellent stories.....

    For fans of cyberpunk/steam punk or fantasy, I'd recommend anything by William Gibson or Michael Moorcock over this . For Reynolds fans, I'd say this is the weakest of his stories I've come across - I'd recommend most of his other work over this.( I particularly recommend 'The Prefect' as a far better story which is read by the same vocal talent)

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tango Texas 11-30-13
    Tango Texas 11-30-13

    Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Terminal World should not be the Terminus"

    I really enjoyed listening to Terminal World and would rate this book much higher if it were the beginning of a series. But Reynolds has written Terminal World as a standalone novel which ends just as a great story is beginning so I found the book a real let down.

    Reynolds sets up a great adventure tale that includes a nice mash-up of hard science and fantasy seasoned with steampunk elements. (I really liked the scientific explanations for the variations in technology. Steampunk often just seems to be about cool gadgets and doesn't incorporate enough logic to make me happy and that's not the case in Terminal World.) As we follow the main protagonist, Quillon, and his cohort, Meroka, in their flight to escape assassination attempts on Quillon, we get pieces of the puzzle to explain how their strange world functions, how it came to be, why it is "broken", and how it can be repaired and the great escape slowly evolves into more of a quest. However, just at the point you start to understand the constructs and have an inkling of how this happened, the story ends. It really feels like reading the first of a series and then having no second book available.

    These are interesting characters with potential for a lot more development and a totally fascinating world whose history/evolution is only hinted at. There is a universe of room to expand and progress this story and I can only hope that Reynolds considers a sequel to "bring this story home".

    Jon Lee does a good turn on narration and the voice he uses for the tough and sassy Meroka is perfect.

    On its own, Terminal World is entertaining and, like all of Reynolds work, the story will expand your mind to some very cool new concepts, but it ends on the cusp of something great and may leave you wanting much more.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David sandy hook, CT, United States 09-22-10
    David sandy hook, CT, United States 09-22-10 Member Since 2014
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    "Great Story and another several book series"

    This is a well written, well read story that keeps you interested 'till the end.
    Does anyone tell a story that can be told in one book anymore?

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 04-23-14
    David Houston, TX, United States 04-23-14 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting world, unsatisfying central character"

    Reynolds always constructs extraordinarily intricate and ultimately logical worlds, and his central characters are usually fully drawn and complex as well. In this instance he nailed the world building but presented us with a leading character who is limp and unsatisfying. Always the thoroughgoing altruist and nearly terminally naive, he wanders along, captive to the plot throughout, functioning primarily as a conduit for information between the various factions with whom he interacts. He is so passive that he is hard to believe as a survivor. It is not the poor sap's fault since the author keeps him restricted and controlled throughout the entire book, but looking back on it I realize just how sick of him I was by the end.

    There were secondary characters who were more dynamic and with whom readers would happily throw in their lot if given a chance, but they never emerged from their supporting roles. Did someone say there will be a series? If so, perhaps the interesting world and the situation in which we are left hanging at the end of the book will provide a stage for giving one or more of the other personae the room to strike out on their own and give us someone to relate to and invest in. That could be worth a credit.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael G. Kurilla ROCKVILLE, MD, United States 05-29-11
    Michael G. Kurilla ROCKVILLE, MD, United States 05-29-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Would have preferred more closure"

    As far as Reynolds' novels go, this is not at the level of Revelation Space, partly because Reynolds ends the tale without a satisfying resolution. We are presented with a different Earth 10k years in the future where the bulk of the population lives on a vertical screw-like structure reaching perhaps almost into space. The structure is vertically segregated into segments with unknown restrictions on the degree of technology that can function. Biology is a bit more forgiving, but people still experience "zone shifts" with resulting illness.

    Our hero represents a modified "angel" from the highest or celestial level who is on the run due to vague factional, political differences. The bulk of the story is an adventure that alludes to the true purpose of the structure, "Spearpoint" and the "how it all went wrong". The ending doesn't so much as resolve the conflicts as it seems to merely explain the real work left to be done.

    As is Reynolds' style, the story explores human evolution and in this case, adaptability to extreme changes in some basic laws of nature. What at first appears random and artificial, the zone boundaries for technology to function in reality, conforms on a loose basis with our world today with examples such as cell phones dropping bars, wireless connectivity being geographically dependent, or electrical outlets varying from country to country indicative of "zone shifts".

    This is now the 3rd non-Revelation Space novel that has left me expecting either more or a sequel to quickly follow; which is odd since novels set in the Revelation Space series have all been reasonably self-contained.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Valenta AZ, USA 05-13-12
    Tim Valenta AZ, USA 05-13-12 Member Since 2012

    Tim

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Steamfiction of the far-future"

    I think it's clear at this point that after completing the many Revelation Space books that the author decided to explore a fascination with old technologies and settings, perhaps dating back to 2004 when he did Century Rain and heavily involved 1950s Paris. This time there is a spread of technology levels, but the book fundamentally takes place in near-zero technology levels, lending the story to wooden airships bound to the principles of air travel and gun warfare.

    For a long while I was dissatisfied with the trend of the story, but Reynolds always has that one part near the end of his books that suddenly drop intellectual bombs and grant you insider knowledge that sometimes even the characters can't fully grasp. This book is no exception, but by the end I selfishly wanted just a bit more out of the world's lore.

    If I'm being honest, the strength of this story is that it gives you the silent treatment about the outside universe, although there is plenty of speculation provided by some characters. Reynolds even goes through his traditional trouble of presenting plausible explanations for complex problems, and then invalidates the characters' hypothesis so that he can make sure you know that he's in strict control of the story progression.

    The untold story behind Terminal World is the way that things arrived into their current state, which would have been a stellar short story, like in the Galactic North collection, but that is likely never to happen. Besides, the strength of this as a story is, again, the assumption that humanity knows very little anymore about its past, save for vague scripture that presumably dates back to the incidents that resulted in the state of the world.

    I think that it's also worth making a note, as tangential as it might be, that the relationship development in this story is subtly more powerful than I expected. Character development is always a key area for Reynolds, but the untold and between-the-lines development of Meroka with those around her, including a deniable interest in Curtana, her relaxation around Quillon, and her affinity for the young Nimcha and her loaned storybooks.

    Also... assuming you have completed the story, consider the Wikipedia information in the section titled "Which World?" (check revision history in case it changes). You might have horribly missed some very interesting information about "Earth".

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 08-07-14
    David 08-07-14 Member Since 2012

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Steampunk post-apocalypse"

    Alastair Reynolds has impressed me with his intellectual sorta-hard-SF space operas, but left me a bit cold in terms of characters and storytelling, the grand scope of his plots dwarfing the human elements. He's a bit like a colder Charles Stross who is not trying quite as hard as Stross does to impress you with his cleverness, even though he's very clever.

    Terminal World is a departure from his usual space operas - it's set on one world, that vaguely resembles Earth but isn't, in a post-apocalytic far future. The setting is kind of steampunkish, but steampunk done in a hard-SF way, and more post-human than the usual pseudo-Victorian frippery.

    Quillon is a doctor living in a city called Spearpoint. Spearpoint is, as its name implies, a towering sliver of civilization stretched up into the atmosphere, surrounded by a wasted, cold and drying planet. Spearpoint is divided into "zones" that determine what technology works there. At the highest levels are the Angels, who still enjoy advanced technology, while at lower levels are places like Neon Heights, Steamville, and Horse Town. Some places, electronics stop working. Other places do not even allow internal combustion. And there are some zones where even humans can't survive.

    At first, the characters seem mostly uninterested in how this state of affairs came to be, because apparently it's been like this for thousands of years, and is now the accepted status quo. Indeed, we learn that despite the obvious remnants of what was once a great, highly technological civilization, most people have little awareness of history or a world beyond their own.

    It turns out Quillon is an Angel, or a former Angel. Angels can't normally survive in the low-tech lower levels, but he was part of a special infiltration project that went wrong and left him isolated among hostile humans (or "post-humans" as the Angels call them). When the Angels come after him, he goes on the run. His flight eventually takes him out of Spearpoint altogether, and across the wastelands which are occupied by Reaver-like "Skull-boys" and a rival civilization known as SWARM that exists entirely in the air, aboard a great fleet of zeppelins.

    So, Reynolds manages to give us sky pirates and zeppelin battles, and a world-saving adventure that does not really uncover the secret behind Spearpoint and its world, but gives us a few glimpses. At times this felt like one of his epic space operas, albeit confined to a single planet, and at other times, it was more like a steampunk adventure. (Zeppelin battles!)

    I liked Terminal World - it feels complete, even with a somewhat vague ending. Clearly Reynolds could write more books set in this world, but it doesn't seem like he plans to.

    Alastair Reynolds is probably one of the smartest and best writers of hard SF and space opera today, the kind of SF that actually uses physics and big ideas. Unfortunately, his writing still lacks an essential something to make him one of my favorites - it's as if there is always a certain lofty distance between author and creation that one can sense in his work. His characters are intelligent and interesting, but they are largely plot puppets. Still, this was going to be "three strikes and you're out" but it was more of a base hit, so I'll keep reading him.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Procyonid Bothell, WA, USA 04-30-13
    Procyonid Bothell, WA, USA 04-30-13 Member Since 2004

    I don't often post a wordy review. So when I do, I really felt it was important!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A delicious sort of World-Building."

    Reynolds creates a fantastic sort of world, with all sorts of questions and concepts to keep me thinking far /outside/ of the book.

    I've no problems with his characterizations, and enjoyed the progression the main character made over time - but that having been said, the real strength of this book in my mind is the progression through the world itself, new, mysterious lands, ideas, and concepts.

    Through it all, a solid level of tension pervades, and I don't think think any portion felt like a real lull. The ending is both incomplete and complete - that is to say, you can see the direction things will go after the conclusion, and even envisage another book, but it might not be necessary, and can stand on it's own.

    That having been said, I'll note I'm very comfortable with Reynold's style, and have more or less ended up binging on everything he's published recently! John Lee seems the perfect sci-fi narrator to me, perhaps because of prior experience - but I've developed a deep fondness for his voice over time, and this book is no exception.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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