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Terminator Salvation: Trail By Fire by Timothy Zahn

1/8/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Terminator Salvation: Trail By Fire in the USA - or Buy Terminator Salvation: Trail By Fire in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 310 page paperback. Price: 6.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84856-088-8.

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'Terminator Salvation: Trail By Fire' is another book that is supposed to be canon in the 'Terminator' series following on from the latest 'Salvation' film according to the back cover.

This story follows resistance fighters Barnes and Blair ordered to work together by an injured John Connor so they can sort out their differences. With a mantra that humans bury their dead, they travel up the mountain by helicopter to bury Barnes' dead brother and spot a cable leading into the mountains. It is there that they find an isolated village and its inhabitants making do with what they have and hunting to purely survive while a couple Terminators on the out-skirts ignores their activities. As the story progresses, there is an awareness of the inhabitants that Skynet might be using the area to learn how to infiltrate and live amongst humans. Telling you which is which would be a definite spoiler although it should be pointed out that these Theta Terminators can operate independently of Skynet.

A side plot to this at base camp, Kyle Reese and some of his pals discover a series of underground tunnels near their base and investigate another series of Terminators digging away.

With the mountain setting switching between sets of characters a lot of the time, when the Reese scenes are added in the same chapter you end up wondering where exactly you are. You really do have to be on the ball to get that and towards the end of the book, this isn't as clear as it could be.

The main strength of Timothy Zahn's book is the extra information given to supplement the 'Salvation' film. There's an interesting comment that the T-700 series Terminators weren't built purely as killing machines but to terminate chaos and crime as well as multi-task in other jobs. That will be interesting to see in future (sic) films of this reality. It also addresses why the Terminators are given human teeth with an interesting observation of human reaction of intimidation to seeing skulls. Mind you, would you be terrified by a gummy Terminator? There are also many references to the Marcus Wright prototype as well.

The story ending seems a little rushed to get everything in and it wasn't until towards the end of the book that I realised the absence of bad language. Not that I have anything against it per se, just that it's a mainstay of the film series. As such it is probably being tailored to be safe for your teen-age children to read although if they've seen the films, I doubt if that would surprise them.

With 'The Terminator' films breaking away from time travel to get John Connor as he was growing up, I suspect its opening up the field to do more future war books. There are some interesting twists here and Skynet's all out annihilation of mankind is more considered in how it does it but is still essentially a faceless enemy. How much is relevant will only be determined when then next film comes out.

GF Willmetts

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