Terminal Alliance: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse

Terminal Alliance: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse

Author(s): Jim C. Hines,
Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse #1
Genre(s): Comedy, Post Apocalyptic, Space Opera,
Publisher: GraphicAudio
Date Pubished: April 18, 2018
366 Pages

Terminal Alliance: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Book Review

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Terminal Alliance, the first book of the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series, is a comedic military series fitting for our times. A disease inhibiting brain function devasted the human population. They are little more than violent, bipedal apes. An alien race called the Krakau has cured a small portion of the human population. In return, the cured humans serve as the main fighting force in the Krakau military. Enter our intrepid heroes. They aren’t the feared infantry units that board enemy ships, nor are they the skilled pilots that bravely fly ships into battle. No, they are just janitors on the battleship Pufferfish.

When the Karakau cure a human, the human learns Earth’s history as recreated by the Krakau. Based on this knowledge, they pick their name. This ends up with a lot of people named for celebrities, both real and fictional. For better or worse, Hines uses this for comedic purposes by switching up genders associated with names. Hines made the right decision naming his main character Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos after someone that doesn’t exist (she is from our future). Had Hines named her after someone we were familiar with, it would have prejudiced us for or against her.

You might be wondering how the janitors are the heroes of this story. Don’t worry; it’s not about mopping the decks. Terminal Alliance quickly introduces a space battle where a bioweapon reverts all humans to their pre-cure state. All except for Mops sanitation team. Facing potential lifelong quarantine, or worse, and death for her reverted crewmates, Mops disobeys orders to search for a cure. What awaits her is a galactic conspiracy.

What is GraphicAudio?

I listened to the GraphicAudio version of this book. If you aren’t familiar with GraphicAudio, they produce dramatized versions of books and graphic novels. Technically, they are abridged. It would be more accurate to call them transformed rather than abridged. All the dialogue and descriptions of action are present. However, since the production includes sound effects and a full cast, it allows them to leave out a significant number of descriptors. You don’t need the narrator to continually chip in with “so and so said excitedly” if there is a voice actor for the character. They will say the line excitedly instead. Sound effects replace the narrator describing sounds. This version of audio drama streamlines the process and keeps you engaged in the story. If the author is incredibly descriptive, it can also significantly reduce the narration’s length without leaving anything out.

Action sequences are always a strength in the GraphicAudio format. Specific actions are narrated, such as “Mops punches the alien,” but sound effects and effort sounds accompany the narrations. The sound effects are more immersive than strict narration. Some people may prefer strict narration, letting their imaginations fill in the sounds. I like this style of storytelling. It works exceptionally well for Terminal Alliance due to its science fiction elements. It allows the author to create wild aliens and settings without constraints. For instance, the Krakau are amphibious, and their areas are usually at least half-filled with water. It would be cost-prohibitive to accurately portray these settings in a visual medium such as television. However, in the GraphicAudio format, the dialogue features ambient noise of the water moving. The sounds of a character’s footfalls are replaced with the sound of them wading into water while the narrator tells us how high the water is.

One scene in particular excellently demonstrates the advantages of this format. Mops and part of her team are running from people trying to arrest them. The sound of gunfire follows them while they run and hide in a theater. Mops and her team turn on the cleaning system, spraying their enemies with water and detergent. The sound of the spray accompanies the description of what’s going on while the enemy slips and slides. Soft thuds sound as they drop their weapons, while more massive thumps sound as they slam into the waiting Mops.

Mops: A True Janitorial Hero

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is the leader of this team of janitors. Judging by when she was cured, she is older and has more experience than almost anyone else on the ship. Even before the rest of the crew reverted, she called the battle bridge and offered them advice. She isn’t a janitor because it’s all she is qualified for. She is a janitor because it’s both where she was placed and where she wants to be. Mops can problem solve, as maintaining the sanitation systems on a multispecies ship is a complicated job. She is relatively safe, as she doesn’t have to put herself in harm’s way continually. Most infantry are wounded continuously. It’s a significant feature in the book that humans are so hard to kill. Mops doesn’t have to deal with any of that. She can do her job, not be too bored, and spend her free time reading Earth literature that the Krakau have found.

None of this means Mops is either lazy or stupid. She is one of the most intelligent people on the crew. When it becomes apparent that the rest of the crew is either dead or reverted, she is quick to take up the mantle of leadership. Her bravery saves her team time and time again. Not willing to accept that her reverted crew must be killed for the safety of humanity, her sense of justice drives her to disobey orders and embark on a quest to find a cure. When Mops’s inherent trust in her Krakau allies is challenged by probable enemies, her intelligence and problem solving allow her to begin to piece together a conspiracy that keeps all humans in servitude. Her growth from leading a team of janitors to commanding a battleship with a skeleton crew, successfully defeating many enemies in battle, is quick but believable.

Supporting Mops is a team of fun plays on tropes. There’s the troublemaker. She is vulgar and quick to fight. Her temper gets her in trouble, and her introduction has her in the brig for starting yet another fight. Her quirk is that she is always threatening to eat all the aliens that piss her off. Also, the troublemaker is traditionally male, so this is gender-swapped. The only alien in the remaining crew is a gamer. They combine the trope of the slacker with the smarter-than-you alien, being able to multitask and play video games while getting stuff done. The list goes on. They all play an essential part in the story, but none are critical in and of themselves.

How Do Janitors Become Heroes?

Much of the comedic elements stem from the fact that these are janitors. Apart from the ex-infantryman, sanitation is all they know. You know the saying that if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail? Well, with this team, every problem looks like a cleaning problem. As I mentioned before, they get out of one problem by turning on the cleaning system. One crew member is very obsessed with the fact that said system is out of date. The juxtaposition of his concerns about the auto cleaners’ reliability with the fact that he is literally being shot at lends a lot of humor to the situation. Mops also blackmails a sentient tree by sabotaging its water and nutrient system when the apparent threat would be setting it on fire.

Most of the comedic elements land. Everyone knows someone who’s obsession with their work overrides everything else. These moments, and there is a fair amount of them, are very relatable. An alien race that is very literal and can’t lie well is a little tired. Hines overcomes this by not leaving it at one-liners. Instead, it’s fundamental to the storyline and how Mops deals with the species. It’s more like the Pakleds from Star Trek than Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy.

While not Earth-shattering, Terminal Alliance is an excellent example of the genre. Comedic to the core, this sci-fi adventure has action, drama, and, most importantly, laughs throughout. I heartily recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor.

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