Alastair Reynolds – Terminal World

This is another distinctly non-new book, having first appeared in 2010. for some reason or other, I hadn’t got around to reading it until now…

This one isn’t (as far as can be determined) related to any of Al’s other novels, being set in a strange, isolated world, which has some interesting features. Somewhere around five thousand years before the action of the novel, something happened on earth[1] – something cataclysmic that created “zones” – depending on which zone you happen to be in, there will be different restrictions on what level of technology can operate. In a suitably high zone, advanced electronics and beam weapons are viable. Move to a lower level and you’ll be lucky if an internal combustion engine can start. Worse, the zones also affect life itself – people become acclimatised to the zone they were born in, and suffer if they move to another one. Get in a really bad zone and no life can survive. And that’s a bit of a problem, because the zones can shift, seemingly at random…

Quillon, a man with a secret, has been working as a pathologist in a moderately advanced level of Spearpoint, the only city known to exist on the planet, which is built on a spiral running around a vast object, speculated by some to be the base of what we would call a space elevator.

When figures from his past make life awkward, he’s forced to flee the city and gets involved in a Quest, in which he learns more about his world, and about himself. Which is about all I’m going to tell you to keep this spoiler-free.

There’s a lovely selection of characters, some really nifty airships, and a gradual (though Incomplete) revelation of what has happened, and what the world actually is. This is done with an impressive lack of infodumps – all we get to know is what Quillon sees, though we might guess more…

Good stuff, worth a read, and shouldn’t be put off for seven years like I did.

[1] Though there are hints that this may not be the planet of the same name that we’re familiar with

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