Rating: 5 out of 5
Peter Clines’ Terminus has a relationship of sorts with his earlier novel, 14 [review]. There’s a group called the Family, and they’re essentially a doomsday cult with a twist: they’re looking to destroy a Machine that’s keeping their so-called “Great Ones” out of our universe. They believe the Great Ones will kill virtually everyone on the planet, leaving them in charge. They also clearly have some sort of physical relationship to the entities they seek: most of them are noticeably not-entirely-human. Murdoch, for example, has big eyes and webbed fingers. Murdoch left the cult when he was younger because he didn’t really believe in all of it, but he’s come back to help out his ex-girlfriend and childhood friend, Anne, who is now “the congregation’s” minister. She believes she has located a lost island where the Machine can be found, allowing the Family to finally fulfill their purpose by freeing the Great Ones to devour the world. A handful of Family members set out for this island together with someone called only “the specialist,” who must remain hidden until they reach the island. Meanwhile, Chase and Doug, two passengers on a cargo ship, are put ashore on a mysterious island to wait until a massive storm has passed by, accompanied by a couple of the crew members, Seth and Ayman. There they find homicidal humanoid (but not human!) creatures and a young man named Alex who claims he can save them.
Oh goodness, there’s so much good stuff that I can’t talk about without spoiling it! I’ll just say that there are wonderful Easter eggs for those who’ve read 14. This isn’t exactly a sequel, but it has some overlap. It’s been a while since I read that book and I managed to hang on through this one without re-reading, but it would be wisest to read the other book first.
The Family is so interesting because they have proof of most of their beliefs. Anne used to be a non-believer like Murdoch, despite the bizarre “deformities” among their congregation, but a “seraph” appeared before her and was killed, causing her to become a zealous believer. Murdoch’s only along because Anne asked him to come, and that goes in interesting directions. (Murdoch may be my favorite character in this book, right up there with the specialist.) Murdoch is assuming this will be yet another failed attempt to find the Machine they’re looking for, and is there to help Anne through that.
The Great Ones take this story into a wonderful cosmic horror direction, as do the seraphs and the cultists’ deformities. Yet there’s also a strong science fiction component in the Machine, which is made from out-of-date technology yet does amazing things. There are a lot of strange details about the island. For instance, the trees are in the wrong part of the world, and look evenly planted, not randomly grown.
There are a lot of amazing things that happen, so I’ll stop here in order to not give them away. It would be all too easy to endlessly babble about the wonderful twists and turns of this book!
Terminus has possibly the best “please tell me about your background” prompt ever:
“Are you going to tell me your sob story?”
“Because I forgot to sync my Kindle before we left port.”