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3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 15 April 2017
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on 11 July 2012
Terminal World - is a book about a future where different states of reality impose different physical rules on different parts of the world.
In some High technology can flourish - in others no complex machines work. The world is split into different zones of technology.

An interesting premise and fertile ground for a book. Im not going to write a lengthy treatise as there are numerous reviews on this book.
I will summarise my opinion. This book is significantly different in style and content from all Reynolds other works.
The characters do not appear as tightly defined as his other works. The main characters origins differ from the rest of humanity. His faction is at odds with the rest of humanity. ( similar to many of reynolds other books). The science is mainly steam age - which is not a problem - but shifts the emphasis from space opera to steampunk. Substitute dirigible combats fro starship battles.

My main beef is with the huge buildup towards the end of the book ( look away if you dont want spoilers) regarding the cause of the Mire ( the source of the zones) and the unsatisfying resolution of the book. For reynolds this was a real anticlimax - the rest of the book was ok - tending towards a reasonable 4 star , but the ending seemed to entirely lose its way and become mired in a succession of anticlimactic false endings.

Very Dissapointing. The whole thing seemed to be a version of Black Lung Captain with much less interesting characters.
Id have to agree with the majority of the other reviewers and state this is not reynolds at his best. And the shift to steampunk doesnt suit his writing style.
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on 22 January 2013
I read this right through to the end because I rate Reynolds highly but I had to have a couple of extensive breaks here and there to rekindle interest. I'm not quite sure how it disappointed and I can't fault any particular part. I haven't read any Steampunk SF so I don't know if this is a Steampunk novel or not but it employs both a (dying) high science along with horses and carts, armoured Zeppelins, vicious cyborg animals, equally vicious, wild humans with armoured balloons and skinny flying neo-humans. What larks! (Not).
I found none of the characters to be of great interest and the demarcation of the various groups to be simplified to facelessness. I think there was supposed to be areas of nail-biting tension but I never read that into the problems that arose. This is a quest novel and the quest was fulfilled in the end but the big questions were left unanswered. I suppose this means the may be (or is) a sequel.
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on 26 July 2010
Short version:
Sub-par and seemingly hurried Alastair Reynolds effort. Avoid this one, and go for one of his earlier books instead.


Long version:
Over the years I have picked up five or six books by Alastair Reynolds. While I can't say that they inspired in me an irresistible urge to reread them, I still recall them as tight and reasonably well crafted. I basically found it easy enough to give the Visa card a whirl in his direction when I had a hankering for science fiction. This easygoing relationship has been given a nasty knock by the book currently under review. It has many hallmarks of a stopgap novel, and Reynold's heart does not seem to be in it.

I am always suspicious of the picaresque format where the protagonist is constantly on the road, with no clear aim in sight. The plot is reduced to a string of events where idea shards sitting in a scrapbook somewhere can be tied together with minimal ado. I am not really in the market for scrapbook clearances, and I want plots that engage. Reynolds additionally commits a grave sin by trying to link these events by means of forward-looking signals. Chapter X: "Well I sure hope we don't run into them Skullboys" [and as frightening names go, "skullboys" doesn't really cut it, does it?]. Chapter Y: run into Skullboys, "but at least we haven't seen them Vorgs, phew!" Chapter Z: are attacked by vorgs. You get the idea. Intriguing to me is also that the main protagonist (an educated man apparently) is utterly clueless about the world he inhabits. This impregnable ignorance is what prompts other characters to woodenly tell him, and me, how the world works. Believable? I think not.

There is a lot of plain sloppy writing in Terminal World. An example. On page 204 someone named Curtana falls asleep, utterly exhausted by her extreme effort over the last few days. We then get an exchange between two other characters that cannot last more than 5 minutes, if that. Then (p. 205): "Curtana, who had woken from her drowse, said, `Here we go.' This is not the work of a meticulous author who feels for his story. This is someone who works with mercenary haste.

The Reynolds books I have read before verged on space opera. I am not sure if this huge canvas somehow made me overlook or forgive character diction. At least I have no memory of it being other than reasonable. Here it is often almost farcically awkward. The stilted sentences that keep popping out of most characters' mouths almost becomes a generic diversion. I found myself wondering whether it was authorial inability or part of a master plan telling us something about the barrenness of this future world. But on occasion Reynolds does endow a character with an idiosyncratic way of speaking. "Meroka", for instance, speaks like a stereotypical cowboy eyeing the spittoon in the corner. A doctor speaks like a surgeon pulled out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Regardless, dialogue is consistently robotic and a chore to get through.


Should you buy it?
I doubt that it will come as a surprise that I cannot recommend this book to anyone. It is poorly written, and the story is astoundingly weak. I will browse Amazon reviews carefully before buying his next one. On the bright side, you have found your way to Alastair Reynolds, and some of his earlier works are indeed worth purchasing. How he has managed to produce this dud, I don't understand.
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on 20 August 2011
A nice attempt, but continues the downward trend of Reynolds' work. His first books were pretty novel, and up there with the heavy hitters, but the recent stuff seems to feature simpler storylines and less complex characterisations. It was ok (Reynolds is a competent wordsmith) but the book is an overly long, incredibly predictable, regurgitated plot I've seen many times before. I didn't really derive any enjoyment from it.
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on 9 April 2013
As a huge fan of the author and as someone who has read all of the major books and many of the short stories, it grieves me to say that this reads like a book written by somebody else entirely - perhaps a Reynolds wannabe. If I had picked up this book under a different byline I'd have thought that it was probably a young and promising author. The fact that this is the writing of an accomplished SF veteran is puzzing and disappointing.

Although the general atmosphere is enjoyably dark and the concepts imaginative as per previous AR books, the overarching plot, and many of the details which shape the story, are bizarre and implausible to the point of resembling comic-book SF.

In addition the characters are largely poorly developed and difficult to relate to, with even the protagonist coming across as a fairly dull and facile. Similarly the relationships between characters are clumsy, with conflicts and friendships reminiscent of a ham-fisted Hollywood script.

To add insult to injury, there are some basic flaws in the writing that should really have been picked up - e.g. particular turns of phrase that are reused within a single paragraph. The general effect is that of either lower writing ability than Reynolds has previously demonstrated, or a lack of attention to detail.

In conclusion, I'm not sure whether Reynolds simply decided to let his hair down and have fun with this book, or whether he outsourced it to China because his contractual comittments were too onerous, but either way I'm very glad that I acquired it from a charity shop for 50p.
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on 15 July 2010
I'm a great fan of Reynolds' previous work. Except for the abrupt ending, the Inhibitors trilogy starting with Revelation Space was a stunning piece of work that I've read 3 times now. I also enjoyed Pushing Ice, House of Suns, and The Prefect tremendously. This one, however, was very disappointing. I'm no critic so I won't try analysing what I didn't like about it. Basically I found it boring and have still not managed to finish it, and I don't think I will.
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on 12 October 2012
I actually enjoyed this book right up until the end where it just sort of stopped. I had guessed that it might, because the very nature of the characters and the setting meant that there could be no meaningful "eureka" conclusion and explanation, which I know is often a good plot device but in this case just left me feeling annoyed.

The world has gone wrong because an important piece of transport technology (stargate style? noone knows) was partly destroyed and/ or interfered with by aliens/ an alien intelligence? which has created weird zones that have slight but importantly different physical constants.

A solution to the problem is guessed at in the form of a child that is capable of controlling the misbehaving machinery and the story revolves around getting here back to the heart of the problem.

They get her there (via numerous trials & tribulations) and then it ends. The story was fine but I just felt it needed more at the end.

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on 23 June 2012
What a badly written unsatisfactory piece of "steampunk" rubbish. I generally read all of AR's work but this may be the last one.
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on 3 January 2011
Having been a great buyer of Reynolds' work over the past few years I was painfully aware that a peak had been reached and we are now onto the tail of the bell curve. This one is a film script in waiting in the most derisory sense. Having said that - it is a reasonable book assuming that you can get it bought and delivered for £5. This one is on par with an Iain Banks; a beach book and nothing more. I strongly suggest just about any of his other books before this one but if you like his style of writing and don't mind a piece of work where you can guess the ending from about a quarter of the way through then this is a tolerable novel.
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