Terminal by Lavie Tidhar

Terminal by Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Terminal by Lavie Tidhar is an emotionally wrenching science fiction story about people, who, either having nothing to lose or having a deep desire to go into space, travel to Mars via cheap, one-person, one-way vehicles dubbed jalopies. During the trip, those in the swarm communicate with each other, their words relayed to those left behind.

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Mei, the main character, was well written and likeable. Due to the fact that she seemed to be an incredibly private person, it took a while for her to begin opening up to the audience. Not knowing her reasons for volunteering to move to Mars only made me more curious to find out why she’d decided to never see any of her friends or relatives again. It was such a drastic decision that I couldn’t wait to discover her motivations for it.

The ending was so ambiguous that I didn’t find it satisfying. While I do enjoy stories that ask their readers to put effort into figuring them out, it is nice to have at least a couple of hints about what the narrator thinks might happen in the end. The fact that the plot suddenly stopped was jarring to me. I sure would have appreciated a little more assistance in figuring out if my guesses about what would happen next were the correct ones.

Keeping someone alive on a trip from Earth to Mars is no easy task. One of the things I liked the most about this tale was how much attention it gave to describing Mei’s accommodations on the jalopy. She was enclosed in a very small space during this journey, but all of her basic needs were taken care of. Seeing how she managed to come up with ways to amuse herself was nearly as interesting as reading the descriptions of how she kept herself fed and safely disposed of her waste products.

I’d recommend Terminal to anyone who likes poetic science fiction.

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