Terminal Cafe
by Ian McDonald
reviewed by Timons Esaias

This novel by Ian McDonald grabbed me and kept my attention throughout. It's nanopunk, I guess, based in a near future in which nanotechnology can re-engineer people. The frontispiece quotes two authorities on the subject: "Watson's Postulate: Never mind turning trash into oil or asteroids into heaps of Volkswagens, or hanging exact copies of Van Goghs in your living room, the first thing we get with nanotechnology is immortality." and "Tesler's Corollary: The first thing we get with nanotechnology is the resurrection of the dead."

The world described is inhabited by the "dead" or people who have been resurrected in the Dead Houses, most of whom have huge debts to pay off through indentured servitude for the privilege of living virtually forever; and the living, or "meat" who are the only folks who legally exist and can inherit property. With the numbers of the former ever rising compared to the latter this situation obviously can't last long. The dead who've been sent to space to run the mines and space factories have already revolted, fought Earth to a draw, and are threatening to attack again.

They've recreated dinosaurs in this future, and all sorts of creatures that never were. And they have cars that change make and model at will. This book is full of Neat Stuff.

I enjoyed the imagined world of the first generation of humans who can literally reshape themselves however they wish (some, of course, grow wings and fly; others are able to walk unclothed in hard vacuum). There's a bit too much of the cyberpunk All-The-Characters-Are-Super-Excellent trope, but nonetheless this book put me in a new world and I enjoyed the ride.

I'll be buying other McDonald books now. And that really ticks me off, because new authors are the last thing my budget needs.

Return to Review Indexes by author or reviewer.

Click here to return to the SIGMA mainpage.

This page maintained by Greg Armstrong