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Book Review: Alastair Reynolds, Terminal World

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One of my all-time favorite science fiction writers is Welsh author Alastair Reynolds.  I was glued to the screen of my iPad running Kindle software reading his 2010 novel Terminal World set in the distant future when I came across, as I frequently do with his writing, a paragraph that just stayed with me and wouldn't let me the page turn:

“He wanted desperately to act, but he knew it was senseless; that Meroka was right.  How ludicrous he must seem to her now, he thought: fresh from the city, stung with bruising indignation at the inhumanity he had only now begun to take notice of.  But it had been out there all along, not just for years or decades but for millennia.  A grinding toll of cruelty and injustice, going on, ceaselessly, for every waking moment of his life.”

That last sentence, “a grinding toll of cruelty and injustice, going on, ceaselessly, for every waking moment of his life,” is the type of writing I love from Mr. Reynolds.  The way he expresses himself is as captivating as the exotic, complex and colorful stories he tells.  Terminal World is not as complex, not as technically detailed and imaginative as other books by Reynolds, but when I was done with it, I wished that there would be a sequel soon.  And I love it when a book does that for me.

I fell in love with Mr. Reynolds's writing through the novels Revelation Space (2000), Chasm City (2001), Redemption Ark (2002) and Absolution Gap (2003).  On a whim I looked up Mr. Reynolds's online and found his email address in the company for which he worked at the time.  I hate to admit that I wrote him a piece of fan email at his office.  Geez.  I instantly regretted pressing send and thought my communication was destined to be filed under "weird."  And yet, he wrote back, swiftly, politely and appreciatively, cementing my fan loyalty.

Mr. Reynolds writing is the kind of read that makes me want to go slowly while I’m reading, to take in every beautifully shaped phrase.  Yet at the same time I wrestle with the desire to lurch ahead and keep up with the break neck pace of the thrilling story lines.  And about his words, he has some good words, really good words.  And he uses them in the right places making for an interesting, engaging and stimulating read.

Terminal World is the story of a pathologist who is working in the city morgue of the last human city.  After a nearly-dead being (who resembles a winged angel and lives in a part of the elevated city out of bounds to regular people) drops onto his dissecting table, his life changes and he embarks on a mission to help and save the life of his surprise visitor.  On the run, together they venture into a wild and untamed land with surprise upon surprise.


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