Review: “Terminal Alliance,” Jim C. Hines

Pros: Hilarious, riveting, moving; fantastic characters and world-building
Rating: 5 out of 5

Jim C. Hines’s Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Book One) is every bit as fun and fascinating as his other series (the Princess novels, the Magic Ex Libris novels, the Jig the Goblin novels) even though the overt setting is very different. In the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series, humans have had their apocalypse. Someone accidentally loosed a virus upon the world that turned humans into “ferals” (kind of like zombies, only not dead). Aliens figured out how to cure small numbers of humans at a time and have been restoring them to health. In return the humans serve as marines in an alien alliance, protecting people from all sorts of bad guys. Marion Adamopoulos, or “Mops”, is the head of a Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team on the EMCS Puffership, a military vessel. She and her team of janitors are the only ones who don’t fall under the influence of a bioweapon that turns their whole crew back into ferals. The janitors have only their cleaning supplies, their skills, and Mops’s smarts to fall back on as they uncover a plot that could wipe out the entire human race–and then some. And something going on within the alliance they serve could result in all of their crew being “put down” rather than saved.

I love watching the team use their cleaning supplies and knowledge of unusual shipboard systems to fight the bad guys at every turn. Watching them try to run the military ship is also highly amusing–they spend most of their time running through tutorials led by “Puffy,” the Pufferfish’s friendly tutorial-giver. They also end up dealing with some highly interesting glitches due to their lack of experience. Hines turns their lack of military background into a source of both hilarity and creative obstructions.

This isn’t, however, a one-note joke in which the only interest comes from the creative concept. It has constant action, excitement, and danger. It kept me riveted the whole way through. The world-building as a whole is also quite interesting, with a handful of alien races, all of which have their own quirks and interesting individuals. I never felt as though they were monolithic or stereotyped. The humans, too, have changed a bit over time which lends extra interest to the overall plot. It only takes the one book for Hines to start blowing open the assumptions he’s already built about the world. I’m already eagerly awaiting the next installment!

From both a sci-fi and a humor perspective, Terminal Alliance is a fantastic book with great characters, wonderful world-building, a riveting fast pace, unusual secrets to uncover, and some great laughs. I highly recommend it.

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