The Cambridge Geek

Jim C. Hines - Terminal Alliance

Ah, Jim Hines. He does some excellent comedy fantasy, mainly in the Libriomancer series. (Trust me, it's rather brilliant. Wish I'd written it myself.) Here, he's branched out into comedy science fiction.

Terminal Alliance tells the tale of humanity, a few dozen decades from now, after it's been brought back from the brink of apocalypse. At some point in history, humanity managed to turn itself into rage zombies (ala 28 Days Later), wiping out all civilisation until some handy aliens came along and cured us, in a rather fraught first contact situation. Having rescued a fraction of humanity, the benevolent aliens (Krakau) brought us into their Alliance (capital A, like the F in Federation).

There's had to be a bit of manipulation to avoid us turning back into ravening monsters, and nobody will touch us with a ten foot pole (they're worried we'll steal it and break it over their face). But they do have something of a use for us as cleaners and maintenance crew (imagine Dave Lister, with a little less curry), even if they don't trust us with command positions. Though they do like us as a military resource. Apparently humanity is rather tougher than most alien species and so we are perfect berserker troups.

Which is all well and good until someone works out how to cause humanity to revert to that apocalyptic feral state, and the human crew of the Pufferfish, a light cruiser, rises up and kills all of the command crew. Only the cleaning staff, lead by Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos, remain un-reverted, and so must fight back, and determine who launched this divisive attack. Thus begins a quest through various systems of the galaxy to hunt down an alien conspiracy and solve a medical miracle.

It's a silly quest at the best of time, with an impressively comedic twist to a common science fiction plot. The incompetent crew tend to see everything in a certain light ("when all you have is a mop"), and watching a cleaning team take down alien warlords is great fun. Hines has given us a decently varied team, hitting certain tropes spot on, and they're impressively rendered.

World building is also decent, with more thought put into some of the alien aspects than bits of Trek occsionally got. Not hard/mundane, but still hangs together well enough to serve the plot. Which is a good bit of thriller, feeling a little like a Farscape episode in the "oh god, what the hell do we do now?" style.

Overall, definitely a fun new series, and one I'll keep an eye out for more of. (But also please do more Libriomancer.)


Tagged: Book Science fiction Spacesuits and rayguns Novel Print