Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 4:45AM
TChris in Science Fiction, Terminal Alliance

Published by DAW on October 30, 2018

Terminal Alliance is an offbeat space opera. The novel is written for laughs but it includes the fundamental elements that make space operas enjoyable to sf fans, including alien empires and starship battles. The story is amusing rather than LOL funny, but it successfully blends humor with action to create a science fiction beach read.

The story imagines that humanity devolved into a feral state. Humans are not exactly zombies, but — well, okay, humans are pretty much zombies. Fortunately, this isn’t a zombie novel, as an apparently benign race called the Krakau have begun the slow process of restoring incredibly dangerous humans to their somewhat less dangerous pre-zombie condition. One of the running jokes is that aliens view humans with trepidation, even when they aren’t feral, because humans have a reputation for being violent and hard to kill.

The Krakau Alliance maintains peace in the galaxy, primarily by keeping the Podryans at bay. Humans are assigned to various roles on Krakau ships as part of the Earth Mercenary Corps. A couple of other alien races are also part of the crew.

Having been given the gift of rebirth by the Krakau, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is no longer feral. She named herself after a 22nd century scientist who help destroy human civilization. She chose that name as a reminder not to destroy human civilization. Other humans choose names like Marilyn Monroe and Wolfgang Mozart.

Mops is dedicated to helping the Krakau, as repayment for their efforts to salvage humankind. She is a lieutenant on a cruiser called the Pufferfish where she has been placed in charge of the janitors. She supervises a group of humans and aliens who unclog toilets and disinfect rooms when aliens engage in slimy activities.

Despite her lowly status, Mops gives tactical advice to battle commanders because she’s been around a long time. For reasons that are not immediately clear to Mops, a routine mission goes awry when the Podryans cause most of the human crew of the Pufferfish to revert to their feral state. The janitors have avoided the infection thanks to their environmental suits, leaving them in charge after the Krakau turn up dead.

The premise creates opportunities for amusing scenes. The janitors use cleaning supplies to subdue humans who revert to a feral state. They have no idea how to fly the Pufferfish or operate its weapons systems, and they generally destroy the ship in simulations as they try to learn to operate it. The only chance the janitors have of saving the human crew involves commandeering the ship and chasing after the Podryans to learn what they did to cause humans to turn feral. This leads to a jaunt through the galaxy, a visit to an alien shopping mall, and the discovery of a revisionist view of human history.

Terminal Alliance is a light and original story that takes a couple of surprising turns. Key characters have well-defined personalities that lead to personality clashes that have been a classic feature of space opera since the days of McCoy and Spock. The ending sets up the next novel in the series. I enjoyed Terminal Alliance and I hope to enjoy Mops’ next adventure just as much.

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