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T2: Infiltrator
S.M. Stirling
HarperEntertainment, 544 pages

T2: Infiltrator
S. M. Stirling
S. M. Stirling series include The Flight Engineer with James Doohan, Ship Who Sang with Anne McCaffrey, Fifth Millennium composed of Snowbrother (1985), The Sharpest Edge (1989 -- aka Saber and Shadow, revised 1992) with Shirley Meier, The Cage (1989) with Shirley Meier and Shadow's Son (1991) with Karen Wehrstein and Shirley Meier. Other series include Draka composed of Marching Through Georgia (1988), Under the Yoke (1989), The Stone Dogs (1990) and Drakon (1996) as well as General with David Drake which includes The Forge (1991), The Hammer (1992), The Anvil (1993), The Steel (1993) and The Sword (1995). Single novels include The Rose Sea (1994) with Holly Lisle and The Chosen (1996) with David Drake.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Peshawar Lancers
SF Site Review: Against the Tide of Years
SF Site Review: Island In the Sea of Time
Excerpt: The Ship Avenged
Excerpt: The Chosen with David Drake
Excerpt: Rising with James Doohan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Martin Lewis

Ahead of the forthcoming Terminator 3 film, the franchise owners are trying to boost the profile of their brand. As such, this is the first in a series of novels designed to whet the appetite for this event. Set in the present day T2: Infiltrator quickly brings us up to speed with what happened after the last film before plunging us into the new adventure.

For the last six years, Sarah and John Connor have been in hiding in Paraguay. Under assumed names, Sarah runs a trucking company whilst John is away at military academy. One day, their neighbour comes to collect a delivery and, to Sarah's horror, he is the spitting image of the T-800 unit. Though he claims to be an Austrian rancher called Dieter von Rossbach, Sarah cannot treat this as a coincidence and starts to investigate his background.

Meanwhile, back in California, Cyberdyne have restarted their investigation into the technology that will eventually lead to Skynet. A back-up site, containing duplicate material that was unknown to Miles Dyson, escaped the wrath of the Connors and "Uncle Bob." This new research is carried out under the watchful eye of a liaison from their most powerful backer; the US Government.

In the future, the forces commanded by John Connor are starting to gain the upperhand against Skynet. Following the failure of the Terminator units, Skynet instigates the Infiltrator programme. Rather than a robot encased in a sheath of flesh, the Infiltrator is a human, modified from birth and indoctrinated to hate humans. Resembling an ordinary women in her mid-twenties and going by the name Serena, she is sent back in time to aid Cyberdyne.

Finally, Miles Dyson's brother, FBI Special Agent Jordan Dyson has got wind of Cyberdyne's emergence from dormancy and believes it will act as a bait to lure the Connors out into the open.

As this suggests, there is more than enough plot to go round. The book is pitched very much at the airport novel techno-thriller market. As such, it is nice and thick and obeys the strictures of that genre with short, sharp sections (each preceded by a dateline) that cut quickly between the different multi-national plot strands. This is worth mentioning because it illustrates the fact that the novel reads like any other fat international thriller, albeit one that uses the future as a location. This reflects the way the Terminator films (and indeed many other nominally SF films) employ SF tropes within the structure of a conventional action adventure film.

Spinoffery is always approached with a degree of caution but in this case any apprehension proves groundless. S.M. Stirling manages to avoid the impression of bland, extruded product that often characterises this sort of novel. Instead he has crafted a highly effective page-turner. His style matches that of the films very well and his dialogue for Sarah and John could have come straight out of the screenplay. Since T2: Infiltrator is a book, he is also able to flesh out the post-apocalyptic future that is only briefly shown in the films and, through Serena's eyes, shows us how the creations of Skynet view humanity. All in all it is an impressive translation of the world of the Terminators from the screen to the page.

The idea of von Rossbach pitching up in the same backwater town as the Connors is a coincidence too far, and an unnecessary one at that. However this isn't bad considering this is the only major implausibility in a story about a killer cyborg from the future; you'd probably find worse in a Tom Clancy novel. Likewise the time travel is fudged but then time travel is always fudged.

There is one serious flaw but it's hard to know how much it is actually Stirling's fault. This is the climax which does not have the triumphant finality this sort of story demands. It might be claimed that this is forgivable in the first of a series but both the films end in ways that leave the door open for sequels whilst at the same time working perfectly well as a final chapter. When we are told near the beginning of T2: Infiltrator that Serena is able to produce clones asexually, the reader is in little doubt as to when and why this eventuality will occur. This openendedness smacks of marketing cynicism, which is a shame because the book is otherwise devoid of this.

Copyright © 2002 Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis lives in South London; he is originally from Bradford, UK. He writes book reviews for The Telegraph And Argus.

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