Friday, April 20, 2018

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Before you go “oh, another space opera,” check out the series name: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse.

Better yet, have a closer look at the book cover.  There is the space background, a bug alien, people in suitable space attire, but, instead of carrying fancy, futuristic guns, they are armed with mop and spray bottles.

Terminal Alliance is not your usual space opera or typical science fiction fare.

Generations ago, aliens called the Krakau made first contact with Earth, and something went horribly wrong with the first contact, like apocalypse-scale.  A zombie plague decimated the human race, and the Krakau have instituted a recovery program to restore humans their intelligence and culture.  It is a slow process, and they do not know if they even have it right, especially all the nuances and many cultures to understand.  Among the aliens, humans are lower life forms, especially since they could potentially revert back to feral zombies, so they are tasked with grunt work.  On the spaceship, ECMS Pufferfish, it started as a run-of-the-mill call to take care of a dispute between rivaling alien ships, but one of them used a bio-weapon that killed the Pufferfish’s alien crew and reverted the human foot soldiers to zombies. Lieutenant Mops (head of the cleaning crew) is the highest ranking officer left, and she and her cleaning staff are left in charge.  It is up to them to save the ship, escape the attackers, and uncover the conspiracy behind the bio-weapon, once they figure out how to fly the ship.

Hines injects so much humor into this series, making this a fun book to read.  Mops runs her cleaning crew with military efficiency, and it is absurdly funny how cleaning materials can be applied as tools and weapons beyond cleaning.  Their cleaning experience also comes in handy when they go undercover to investigate the trail because who looks twice at the janitor?  Hines provides entertaining commentary on human culture and history with the Krakau’s attempts to translate and understand, especially when they miss nuances.  Talk about culture clash, and it is more extreme being between species alien to each other, but the outside perspective does bring out the absurdity and humor of behavior and concepts readers would usually take for granted.  The cleaning crew is a mis-matched bunch but well-developed characters who are more capable than they have been taught.  While sci-fi and fantasy are known for having unusual names to indicate difference, Hines uses familiar names in unexpected contexts.  For example, the Krakau name recovered humans with names from history, so readers will see Marilyn Monroe and Wolfgang “Wolf” Mozart, though they bear no resemblance whatsoever to their historical namesakes. There is even an explanation for how the ship is named the Pufferfish, but you will have to read the book to find out.

Look for Terminal Alliance in the VBPL Catalog.  Try Jim C. Hines’ other series, including the Goblin trilogy starring goblins as heroes (starting with Goblin Quest), Hines’ Princess series is his take on fairy tale princesses, starting with The StepsisterScheme (see review), and his fan letter to the science fiction and fantasy genre, his Magic Ex Libris series, starting with Libriomancer (see review).

Review by Tracy V.

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