Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes by Timothy Zahn
Book Report by Vincent
If a book marketer was targeting me directly, they couldn’t do much better than Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes. First off, it’s a Terminator novel and I’m a sucker for anything with the word “Terminator” in the title. If there’s one thing I love in fiction, it’s robots hell bent on destroying the human race in a post apocalyptic setting and almost coincidentally, that’s what the Terminator franchise is all about! The fact that it’s written by Timothy Zahn is just icing on the sweet nerd pie. I don’t know how they managed to get him for this book, since Max Allan Collins is legally obligated to write any TV/Movie tie-in released. Perhaps there was some sort of knife fight involved.
Zahn, if you don’t know, wrote the immensely popular Thrawn trilogy of novels that continued the Star Wars series and pretty much kicked off a big resurgence in popularity for Star Wars that continues to this day. While you may argue that it lead to a lot of the shit EU we see now, I still have a fondness for Mr. Zahn and his writing. The guy is a true king in the world of nerds.
Ashes takes place sometime before the film Terminator Salvation. John Conner is in charge of a resistance cell that’s not as powerful as the one seen in the movie. They find out that Skynet setting up a staging area to eliminate all the residents of a section of L.A., so Conner plans to go in and take over Skynet’s base while the Terminators are creaming the post Judgment day survivors. We are also introduced to a group of survivors who just happen to be living within the soon-to-be zone of death. The three most important of these are Orozco, Kyle Reese, and Star. Orozco is the head of security for a group of survivors that just happens to include Kyle and Star. Kyle is the father of John Conner, of course, but he’s young here. Star is Kyle’s little kid partner who just happens to be completely useless.
Most of the action in Ashes revolves around the fight against a large group of Terminators. If you were looking for anything more than that you’ll be disappointed, but I suspect anyone who reads a Terminator book enjoys reading about killer robots. I could be wrong, though.
Despite the fact I had a fun time reading Ashes, I can’ t say the book was perfect and I don’t blame Zahn. I blame the constraints of a prequel and the fact that I’m sure there were certain things that he had to include. The most annoying is the addition of Kyle and Star. They really don’t do anything for the story. In fact, I’ve never once really gave a shit about what Kyle was up to before we meet him in Terminator. Hell, his introduction in Salvation satisfied any need I would have ever had to what young Kyle was like or what he was doing. And can anyone explain the point of the mute Star kid? Is it to show that Kyle was already set up for the role of protector because he hung out with some random brat? If that’s the case, it’s pointless because I don’t think anyone ever wondered why he was protecting Sara in the first film.
One weird inclusion was the explanation of where the Guns and Roses CD and boombox that appeared in Terminator Salvation. If you cared about such a trivial detail, then you get the origin story to end all origin stories for an inanimate object. Zahn wastes about a half of a page explaining it to the reader. Awesome.
Ashes was a quick read, mostly due to the fact that Zahn crafted a story that was filled with tension as well as plenty of action. While you did know that main characters that were in the film wouldn’t die, there were plenty of other characters introduced that I found myself caring if they lived or died. Zahn also manages to pull off the possibility of a spin-off and if they movie had done better, I’m sure we would have seen more from that end.
Sometimes when you read books like this, the threat posed by the enemy isn’t that great because they are so many of them. Zahn does a terrific job of making them unstoppable bad asses. It’s nearly impossible to kill them and the characters have to work extra hard in order to survive, just like they should when they don’t have laser guns yet.
All in all, Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes is a decent book if you have been missing some Terminator action in your life.