Books

Review: Sci-fi book 'Terminal Alliance' offers great adventure

Jim C. Hines is known for his work in the fantasy world — recreating known worlds or adding fantastical elements to known worlds. The Princess series takes well-known fairy tales and casts the helpless princesses as kick-ass heroines who write their own happy endings. The Magic Ex Libris series covers urban fantasy and fulfills every bookworm’s dream of bringing their favorite objects to life while examining topics such as diversity and human rights.

“Terminal Alliance” is a jump for Hines, this time into the realm of science fiction, space opera specifically, as he charts the journey of very heroic space janitors. Yes, space janitors.

Hines has tackled tough issues for several years via his blog. As he has continued his writing career, readers have seen those issues become layered into his stories.

In this new science fiction series, Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, he asks his readers, “What does it mean to be human?” When asking this question, Hines creates new worlds populated by strange nonhumanoid-looking aliens who think humans are beneath them. Part “Star Trek” and part “Galaxy Quest,” “Terminal Alliance” follows Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos and her crew of space janitors, plus one genial alien, on their quest to determine the truth about the downfall and apparent rescue of the human race from a disease that sounds like something out of “The Walking Dead.”

Overall the story and adventure in “Terminal Alliance” is great. The mystery surrounding what happened on Earth during first contact is revealed in a way that’s not too slow or not too fast. Mops always seems to be on top of what the reader is thinking. She is a strong leader and does her best to put on a strong face for her crew, and there were times where her vulnerability shows as well. This made her a real character and leader. The reader will identify with her struggles and those of her crew and root for their success in uncovering the truth.

The only downside to this book might be its roots in science fiction. This is a genre, along with epic or high fantasy, can be difficult to read. It can be a struggle for readers to see the exotic new life-forms, the worlds they live in and ships they fly, based on the descriptions. But with “Terminal Alliance,” much of the time was spent with Mops and her human crew so readers won’t spend much time with a wrinkled brow trying to figure out what the aliens looked like and how they fly their ships. Readers will become absorbed in the story and conspiracy related to the demise of the human race.

The strength of “Terminal Alliance” comes from its three-dimensional characters and the questions asked about what makes humans human. As Mops and her crew piece together the truth, readers are taken on a grand adventure across a wild universe where humans are not at the top of the power tower.

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Using everything in their tool belts, from “high-pressure canisters of disinfectants, paints and sealants,” Mops and her band of misfits strive to reveal the truth about what happened to humanity with tenacity, grace and humor. It’s a wild and enjoyable ride.

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