Terminal Core by Lynn Steigleder

Synopsis: The planet Aon has a solid core made of the most sought-after material in the galaxy: a substance called caladium. This material can do amazing things and powers many inventions, mostly immense weapons, and appears to work miracles; however, pursuing caladium comes at a cost. In this science fiction novel, a diverse crew of beings are unknowingly brought together to protect Aon from those who would destroy it in the name of greed and caladium.

It is not uncommon for a sci-fi novel to be confusing at times. With characteristics such as interplanetary travel, advanced  technology, and alien races, there is a lot that can be difficult to understand at first. Sometimes it can take several chapters before the reader really understands what is going on. That said, finishing this book left me just as confused as I was in the first chapter. Everything seems to be a mess in my mind; hopefully I can sort enough out so that this review makes sense.

The plot of Terminal Core sounds interesting initially; Steigleder utilizes many common sci-fi elements, but manages to make his work unique and unpredictable. However, it is so unpredictable that often the story fails to make sense. I’ll start with the organization and format: The chapters are incredibly short, none more than a few pages long. Additionally, in each chapter for approximately the first half of the book, a new character is introduced. Eventually I realized the pattern and connections between characters, but this was not apparent and never fully explained. Nothing is said when a character is first introduced about their background, personality, or even their race (meaning human/alien/etc). Granted, telling each character’s race up front would take away some of the surprise and suspense from later chapters. What’s even more confusing is that in nearly every chapter for the majority of the book someone suddenly dies. There is little lead-up to the deaths, just as there are often rough transitions between events. Things happen so suddenly that I tended to get mental whiplash jumping from one train of thought to another.

While I’m on the topic of the insane amount of murder herein, I must give a warning: this book is incredibly gruesome. Each death is described in detail, with stomach-turning precision. I often read over my lunch break, and it got to where I could not read this book while eating lunch because I was so disgusted by the distasteful explanations of how people (and aliens) were slaughtered. In fact, it took me notably longer than anticipated to get through this book, and largely for that reason. The short chapters make it easy to put down, the gore causes reading to be wearisome, and the constant parade of new characters and repeated deaths makes keeping up with it all an exercise in mental gymnastics.

Terminal Core was advertised to me as Christian science fiction, specifically aiming to appeal to young adults, and void of offensive language or sexual situations. While it is true there is no foul language and only minor hints at romance, I hesitate to label this YA. Beyond the confusing elements I have already discussed, there is a significant amount of dialect usage which could be confusing, and Terminal Core fails to ring with the sense of adventure, discovery, or growth which most YA novels contain. On top of that, the aspects of the final few chapters which give credence to the attempt to call this a “Christian” book are confusing to me, and if they’re confusing to someone who has studied literary criticism and is a Christian, I imagine they would be even more confusing to someone who is still trying to figure out how the real world works. There are (problematic) allusions to Jesus, God, and prophesy, but I fail to grasp any true themes of Christianity being worked out.

I am sure that there is someone out there who would enjoy this book. Unfortunately, I am even more certain that someone is not me. I struggled to get through this, and while I acknowledge that not everyone has the same preferences and turnoffs as I do, I simply cannot recommend this book. It is confusing, gruesome, and anticlimactic.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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