Book Review | Terminal Alliance – Jim C. Hines

About the book

When the Krakau came to Earth, they planned to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species.

This would have worked out better for all involved if they hadn’t arrived after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know—your standard apocalypse.

The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn their ships around and go home. After all, it’s hard to establish diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.

Their second impulse was to try to fix us.

A century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they’re no longer trying to eat everyone. Mostly.

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is surprisingly bright (for a human). As a Lieutenant on the Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish, she’s in charge of the Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. When a bioweapon attack by an alien race wipes out the Krakau command crew and reverts the rest of the humans to their feral state, only Mops and her team are left with their minds intact.

Escaping the attacking aliens—not to mention her shambling crewmates—is only the beginning. Sure, Mops and her assortment of space janitors and plumbers can clean the ship, but flying the damn thing is another matter. As they struggle to keep the Pufferfish functioning and find a cure for their crew, they stumble onto a conspiracy that could threaten the entire alliance.

A conspiracy born from the truth of what happened on Earth all those years ago…

358 pages (hardcover)
Published by DAW books
Publication date: November 7, 2017
Author’s website
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This book was a library loan (and I think I have an ARC too, but I read the library version because I’m cool like that). Yay libraries!

Well, I read this book about a thousand years ago, and then life happened and I forgot to review it. I suppose I’m currently operating on the idea of “better late than never.”

Jim C. Hines is one of my favorite authors. He has this uncanny ability to write serious books in a fun way. He tends to wrap up his plots, which often are weighty and thought-provoking, in a humorous skin, which makes the whole thing more palatable. I never really feel like he’s hitting me over the head with his seriousness, rather, I enjoy my forays into his world(s) because, while I do tend to leave them with a lot on my mind, I enjoy the hell out of my time there.

This really isn’t any different than his other books in that respect. The book focuses on a group of janitors on a spaceship (called the Pufferfish). They are a rather motley crew, all of them unique and memorable for different reasons. However, they are all so very well developed, with a keen eye on each character’s strengths, and their weaknesses, which served to make them jump off the page. By the time the book was over, I felt like I was leaving behind good friends.

The plot, as I mentioned above, is rather serious, though it’s balanced well with all the brevity that surrounds it. That’s not to say that the whole book is a laugh-out-loud chuckle-fest. There are serious moments. There are points when, in conversation, the characters all leveled themselves out in a way that felt both real, but appropriately solemn. Can I say that that’s another thing I love about Hines’s work? He always knows when to make things as serious as the situation warrants, and also knows when to drop in witty banter to lighten the mood at the most perfect times.

Anyway, the plot.

Terminal Alliance tells the story of humanity, after a plague has been released, which wiped out half of the population, and regressed the other half so they are little better than animals. Then, the Krakau (another interstellar race) come to help, giving humanity a way forward, as it were. Slowly, culture is formed and developed, and humanity becomes more of an interstellar race more than an earthbound, rather animalistic one. Insert our team of janitors, who find themselves on the Pufferfish. An alien bioweapon attack wipes out everyone but Mops (one of the janitors) and her crew, and reverts humanity back to its savage state.

The plot follows this group, the most unsuited for the task ahead of them as can possibly be imagined, as they try to navigate uncharted waters, fly a spaceship they aren’t trained to fly, and try to heal a crew that has been infected with some unknown disease. Under all of this, is a conspiracy which is slowly revealed as the book progresses.

This book is billed as a humorous space opera, and while it is funny (everything Hines writes tends to make me laugh in the best way), the book is actually one of the better space operas I’ve read, with a ton of layers and depth. Something is always happening somewhere to someone, and there’s never really a dull moment. More, though, is the stunning amount of thought and work Hines obviously put into the development of this new, futuristic world he’s created. There’s a lot here to chew on, and a lot to laugh about. While Hines does, at times, shine a mirror on us so we might look back at ourselves, it’s never heavy-handed. There’s a grace about how Hines handles complex topics, and a real balancing act, which he performs perfectly, between serious, funny, and thoughtful.

It’s delightful. Seriously.

In my humble opinion, this is one of Hines’s strongest books. It’s got everything that makes Hines an author to watch: humor, complex characters, complex world-building, and a thought-provoking plot.

The second book, Terminal Uprising is out, and I believe the third book has been delayed due to some personal situations that Hines and his family is currently facing (my thoughts are with them). Regardless, if you’re looking for something to read that’s a bit off the beaten path, and fantastically well developed and written, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t pick up this book.

5/5 stars


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