Terminus

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

Note: I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

In a previous life I studied Medieval History. While I don’t study it/work in the field, it is still my favorite historical period. Besides that, when I read, I read mostly science fiction (with some fantasy, horror and “general fiction” thrown in). So when I saw The Unity series by Tristan Palmgren about first contact in Medieval Italy, how could I resist?

I read the first part, Quietus, a little while ago, which set the scene. We have The Unity, an intergalactic transdimensional empire run by AI-clusters “living” on planarships capable of opening routes between planes. Humanity, spread out over planets, planes and ships works for and with these AI’s. However, The Unity was forcibly dissolved under threat of a different being, which used a plague to threaten the human population of The Unity. All this unfolded with planarship Ways and Means hovering over Earth in the Fourteenth century. Earth that is battling the Black Death, its own plague. Why was Ways and Means there? What was the assignment of the few humans brought to Earth by the ship? And what is Ways and Means going to do now that it’s effectively exiled near this Earth, unable to leave this plane?

In Terminus this story unfolds further. We are reunited with some characters from the first book, and meet some new ones. It is thirty years after Quietus and Ways and Means cured the plague. But that still leaves humanity on Earth to deal with the aftermath. It still feels like apocalypse has come. We follow Fiametta, a human woman from Earth who works herself from orphan in a monastery up to leader of her own company of mercenaries. We are also reunited with Meloku, who is remorseful about her actions in the previous book, and Osia, who is on Earth, trying to stay away Ways and Means, whose crew is blaming her for the break-up of The Unity. Meloku and Osia are the only two human crew-members on Ways and Means. 

Anyway, Fiametta is being led by a voice, and financed from the East. Meloku figures out something is happening under her nose when she figures out that her observations are wrong. And Osia notices her crew, created for her by Ways and Means based mainly on fictional characters, is acting strange. What follows is a race to figure out just what is going on in the East, who is manipulating who, and more importantly, why. It’s clear that the people from The Unity and the Medieval humans from Earth are not done with each other just yet.

I enjoyed Terminus even more than I did Quietus. Quietus took a bit too long sometimes to set the scene, and Terminus also had more SF elements. I also liked the mystery of who was manipulating events and how, and why. Just like with Quietus, if you like Medieval history, first contact (but not like you know it) and science fiction, The Unity series is for you. Four out of five stars from me.
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With the transdimensional empire of the Unity fractured, its rulers and agents find themselves isolated to thousands of planes of existence. Exiled to Earth, the living planarship Ways and Means has cured Europe of the Black Death in its master plan for what it has in mind next for the planet. But some of the agents it has on the ground begin to recognise some worrying inconsistencies with the way Earth’s history is developing and that it might not be just their lives that are in danger. These irregularities are adding up to more than their own personal safety and may affect more than the planet they have come to think of as their home.

Set ten years after the first story, Terminus explores the history of the condottieri, the mercenary armies who roamed a politically fractured Italy in the years after the plague, laying waste and seizing portions of land for their paymasters to control.

Niccoluccio, the monk , was a wonderful character to wrap the first book, Quietus,around, but in the female soldier and leader, Fiametta of Treviso, Tristan Palmgren has created an equally fascinating muse and one that has scope for more intriguing narratives. She is a type of Joan of Arc but, given the science fiction element and her hearing voices, also reminiscent of Mary Gentle’s female soldier, Ash.

Terminus revolves around Fiametta, but also brings in two of the characters from Quietus. Meloku, the villain of the first book, is now wiser and more staid, even regretting her previous actions. Osia, anthropologist Dr Habidah Shen’s superior in the Quietus, is to be found aboard a Chinese Junk collecting intelligence from the Far East for Ways and Means.

I said in my review for Quietus that I would be very happy to read any historical fiction written by Palmgren, given the quality of that part of his story. But he has taken the blend of alternative history, actual history and science fiction to produce a narrative that is absorbing in its detail and driving plot, and made it his own.

Conceptually this is a book that is easier to follow than Quietus, probably because I was already acclimatised to the world of the amalgamates and the way history was being influenced by Ways and Means. It is no less a fascinating read than the first, particularly as Palmgren has cleverly worked in a new protagonist and used two original characters in slightly different roles. The breadth of his imagination combined with historical fact has created something different and compelling.

I really want to know what happens next because, for me, there is still plenty of story yet to explore in this blend of history, an intriguing fictional historical character with a sharp strategic mind, and how it might be managed by those with advanced technology at their disposal.
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An absolutely phenomenal book!  

I read the first book in the space of one day, but as soon as I got this book in my hands I knew I had to savor it.  And that proved to be the best way - I was able to let the richness of the plot and characters seep in.

I'm absolutely in love with this book.  I love the characters, I love the connection of the plot to the plot of the previous book, I love the DEVELOPMENT just oh my god??

My absolute favorite part, though, was the whole discussion laid out over responsibility and the idea of recognizing yourself if confronted with who you used to be.  Several characters - humans, semi-humans, and even an almighty amalgamation of artificial intelligences - have an instance where they're confronted with who they were at the end of the first book, or the same sort of choice presented to who they were at the end of the first book.  It gives them a moment to contemplate how they've changed, how they've grown.  It gives a lot of insight to the characters' internal processes, and it just works so well with this book.

15/10 would reread a thousand times and none of you can stop me.
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Palmgren has a hit here!  It's a fast paced story involving an advanced spaceship that comes to earth during the Middle Ages and ends the Black Plague.  The main characters are Osia and Fia. Osia is a demiorganic creature, fashioned to look like a human from the spaceship.  She had been put on earth in exile for 30 years so far.  Fia is a orphan girl from a convent in Italy who hears a voice in her head.  It's a well developed story.   The characters all have depth.  I would read again.
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