The Terminal State by Jeff Somers

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The Terminal State by Jeff Somers

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A linear action adventure for Avery Cates in his fourth book, as he's tasked with an assassination much against his will.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498751

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In this future, desolate, post-apocalyptic world, the last thing Avery Cates wants to do is choose a side. The police are androids, artificial cases for clones of people who die in the making, and the other source of power is not much better. But it's them that pressgang him into joining their army. What little freedom and power he had as a lone gunman is lost, as he's given nanotech augments to make him a super-soldier. Which is bad news - as is the fact the two most powerful and hated people in Cates's universe are the very people who buy him from the army to do one last job - and they can be very persuasive about him accepting it...

There's a small sense of something missing from this book early on - the blase attitude to feeling and inflicting pain, and body-horror viciousness of this dystopian series. But Cates remains matter-of-fact - he's also been programmed to be the perfect tool of his master, dying if he gets too near or too far from them. The world is getting worse, as far as he is concerned. The people are getting inured to the worst moonshine possible, the desolated planet is ripe for one side - army or police - to take full control, to the benefit of nobody but them, and the man he's been ordered to assassinate - why, he may just be more dangerous than the main villains now pulling Cates's puppet strings.

There's also a matter-of-factness to the science fiction action we have here. The augmented soldier side of Cates is well represented, and you're never allowed to forget the ease with which he'll meet his death, courtesy of his first person narrative - which for once does not force us to remember he'll survive to tell his own story. There's also an ease with which more fantastical, psychic elements of the threat can be focused on - although I didn't think the main dramatic scene in which they're introduced worked terribly well.

In fact, while I might admit nothing did work terribly well, there was nothing about this book that was at all approaching poor. Again, there's a masculine, rugged side to the telling, with this being a certificate 15 film as it plays very visually across one's mental cinema. The last book in this series, The Eternal Prison might have been a step too far for our author, but here he's on standard ground, effortlessly chugging us from one kinetic action piece to another, and never letting slip the control he has on his distinctive, nightmarish setting.

I can quibble with what ease the protagonists got from end of the nightmarish future Earth to the other, and there are two moments of contact at the end that just go against all the rules set up by the other 350 pages, but the ending(s) are a case in my point - proving that for gutsy, dark sci-fi noir, this series is well worth engaging with. I wouldn't recommend it to all, but genre fans will find these books memorable - they're almost self-contained, all successful in one way or another, and I'm grateful Orbit have allowed me to read the Bookbag's review copy each time.

The series started with The Electric Church. There are further future fights and fractions in the same publisher's The Unit by Terry Dehart.

Buy The Terminal State by Jeff Somers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Terminal State by Jeff Somers at

Buy The Terminal State by Jeff Somers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Terminal State by Jeff Somers at


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