When people ask me what my favorite genre is, I usually say ‘SCI-FI and fantasy.’ Just like that, I prioritize sci-fi, even though the majority of my reading is on the fantasy side of things. But there’s a little bit of me that still thinks it’s more acceptable to be caught reading sci-fi than fairy tales or anything with magic. Why? Probably leftover guilt from hiding most books with magic from my mom as a kid. I could read whatever I wanted, but I didn’t show her anything I thought might be ‘questionable.’
Or maybe it’s that while reading sci-fi is undeniably nerdy, it is also proof positive that you are intelligent. Or maybe it’s just the look on people’s faces when you confidently say ‘fantasy!’ It used to be that you’d get vague answers of ‘Oh, you like the Tolkien books?’ but now the stakes have changed. New number one response? ‘Have you read the Twilight series?’ Sigh. Just so you know, I read the first one. Quit after that. Have nothing against vampires except that they’re overdone. Or sparkly. But you know.
Enter Elitist Book Reviews. These people know literary condescension inside and out. Well, and they’re hilarious. You’ll actually like it and start to crave it when they talk down to you. Wait…that’s just me? *ahem* I saw a book over at the site that clearly fitted as sci-fi, and also had airships on the cover (hello, my steampunk obsession?), and the review mentioned ANGELS. I tried to imagine how that combo could be bad. Didn’t succeed. Ordered Terminal World straight away.
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. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains.
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, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint's Celestial Levels - and with the dying body comes bad news.
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...
There are reasons I love sci-fi. Some of them are obvious: I expand my vocabulary, or it’s a good conversation topic for when I meet a cute, geeky boy. Not that those are real reasons (except for maybe in my subconscious). But the other ones: where I learn about science, and where the plot is often the driving force, where the intricacies of world building really start to matter and add up. Also? A lot of sci-fi novels are big, fat books. You can’t finish them in one sitting. Although I like to gobble up a book as much as the next person, there’s something to be said for a story that you have to consume over a couple days and nights, and makes you dream of the stars.
I enjoyed this book. I read it in as close to one sitting as I could manage. In fact, I stayed up all night before work on Monday to finish it. I enjoyed it, but it was not life changing. I was happy to be caught up in investigating a new/distant future and to see which twists and turns the story would take. But I didn’t love or connect to any one character so much that it flipped the story from ‘like’ to ‘love’ territory. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm lukewarm. It's solidly in 'like,' and nowhere near 'dislike' or 'meh.'
I think part of it had to do with the ways in which the characters and their histories were revealed. We come into a story where everyone has a background, or a dark, secret past. And while some of that was unraveled, a lot of it was left in the background, and it seemed like we were supposed to take it on faith that those things put the characters in ‘gray’ territory. But really? This story could not have been more black and white. I was never in any doubt of anyone’s motives, nor did I ever feel any sympathy for the devil, as it were.
Terminal World did have strengths, of course. The description was really first rate. The inventiveness of the world building and the route of the adventure and the overall mystery were also top-notch. There were action scenes to make anyone's heart pound. There’s also enough left out of the story to guarantee that sequels can follow. It’s just too bad that it didn’t hit the sparkling highs I expected. I guess that means I’ll just have to try another sci-fi novel!
Recommended for: sci-fi fans, anyone with a thing for angels or dirigibles (especially together!), aerial battles and sky pirates, and those who are in the mood for a big, fat book with an interesting plot.
This book counts for the Horns and Halos Reading Challenge.