The author was kind enough to send me an early review ARC, which I appreciate a great deal. I have read all of Hines’s books, and the reason this book gets five stars from me is it is the author’s most ambitious project to date.
Don’t get me wrong. Hines is one of the most versatile authors working in speculative fiction today, and I love that he ranges far and wide in his take on the speculative. Terminal Alliance has so many moving parts. It makes the philosophical statements he makes in his Goblin series (you missed this? Go look again!), has the strong moral characteristics of his princesses, and is full of the kind of self-examination we get in the Libriomancer series.
AND in and of its own self, this is easily the most interesting group of extraterrestrials I’ve seen in SF in a long time. In a publishing world of Roddenberry style humanoid aliens with facial appendages, Hines gives us aliens that are patterned on other life forms of earth–octopi, bugs, muppets–but he gives them excellent personalities and distinctive traits for each alien and alien culture. No Mr. Spock Vulcan monoliths here. Different planets have different factions that don’t get along. Hmmm…that’s kind of refreshing.
Additionally, Hines’s humor wends into satire in this book. To get these jokes, you have to understand our current culture and see how the future warps and distorts it. We get the jokes the characters in the book can’t get. There’s plenty in there that’s funny for its own sake, but man, the social commentary on current times. It’s pretty good.
I liked Jim Hines as an author before. I am more impressed now than I have ever been, and I’m the academic that called Goblin Quest the current equivalent to Pilgrim’s Progress. Step back and just let Hines write. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.