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T2 Book 3: The Future War by SM Stirling

01/08/2003. Contributed by Laura Kayne

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pub: Gollancz. 357 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-575-07157-5.

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By the time you read this review, ‘T3: The Rise of the Machines’ will be in cinemas and it will be interesting to see how the events of the film compare, coincide or are added to by these officially endorsed books by SM Stirling.

Following closely on from the events of the second book, ‘Rising Storm’, the third ‘The Future War’ covers much of the same events that the T3 film looks to be dealing with. John Connor is growing up and so is Skynet.

T2 Book 3: The Future War by SM StirlingThe Connors know that Judgement Day is just around the corner and when computer-built cars and buses start driving on their own and turning against their drivers, Sarah and John know that the future is about to become the present.

The bombs hit - Skynet's first strike against the humans - and slowly John begins to build up the Resistance, aided by Sarah and her partner Dieter (introduced in the first book). With all governmental and policing systems gone, chaos rules.

Skynet has infiltrated the military, using unknowing soldiers to do his bidding. Radiation from the bombs ensures the cities are out of bounds and John and Sarah still have to convince some people that they're not crazy. Soon, the Hunter-Killer machines and the first Terminators are spotted and the Connors finally have proof.

Elsewhere, Lieutenant Dennis Reese meets Mary Shea. The story then skips between John and his first battles and commands and Dennis and Mary and the join the Resistance, fall in love and a few years later have a son, Kyle Reese - John Connor's father, soon to be sent back to 1984.

Around them all the Resistance grows, winning some battles and loosing others, turning the present into the cold, bleak, war-torn future hinted at in the first two films. Kyle grows up, becomes a soldier and when John is too late to stop Skynet's time-travel experiments, he volunteers to go back into the past to stop a certain Terminator killing Sarah Connor in 1984, sacrificing his life in the process.

It seems you can't escape time, destiny or fate. Kyle and Sarah survive, Skynet fails and the future is secured - John Connor is born and the Resistance continues. But the war also continues, in an uncertain and terrifying present.

SM Stirling skilfully captures the tone and pace of the Terminator films and with the Future War clearly and smoothly closes the gap between the first two films and T3, covering the time-period from the end of ‘Rising Storm’ through Judgement Day into the beginnings of the war and finally through the chaos of a machine-destroyed future where John Connor is the 'Great Military Leader', Sarah Connor becomes a legend and Kyle Reese gets to travel in time.

As time passes the landscape changes. Children are being born who have no knowledge of pre-Judgement Day society. John and Sarah go from social outcasts to leaders and commanders.

Society has changed and Stirling neatly portrays the feelings of confusion and terror, determination and frustration that could easily describe such a society. The book is visual, linking it to the visual and action-based style of the films, as well as making use of the medium of the written word to get inside the character's heads.

It makes for an easy and enjoyable read. These books tie in nicely with the ‘Terminator’ films without being as commercial as Tie-In 'making-of' books and novelisations of films. A satisfying and useful addition to a Terminator fan's bookshelves but also a fun and relatively light read for any science-fiction and fantasy fan.

Laura Kayne

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