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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
S. M. Stirling contributes a welcome, but puzzling, entry into James Cameron's world of the Terminator. It's been widely rumored that the next Terminator movie, currently in development, deals with the continued story of Sarah and John Connor. Some common rumors that I've heard are that Arnold Schwarzenegger, in one form or another, is back as a protector to the Connors; they are to face a new threat in the form of a female terminator; and the events will occur prior to the apocalyptic world of post-nuclear Los Angeles depicted in the earlier two films. Funny how these three points serve as the major skeleton of Stirling's new book, T2: Infiltrator. This is clearly not the movie tie-in version. Or is it?
But first, a bit of history: Cyberdyne Systems, a computer research company creates a defense system called Skynet that, in the interests of eliminating human error, removes humans entirely from the decision of when to launch nuclear weapons. This system is too advanced for humanity's good and, soon after going online, it decides to launch its missiles -- setting off a worldwide nuclear war. At its conclusion, Skynet remains fully intact, sentient, completely integrated with machinery of all kinds -- and determined to make mankind extinct. While the world suffers from nuclear fallout, Skynet automates weapon facilities and creates and unleashes equipment designed to destroy all remaining vestiges of humanity. Skynet's mechanical minions, the Terminators among them, succeed in wiping out all but a guerrilla movement led by John Connor, who provides the sole resistance against the machines.
Ultimately, Connor wins and Skynet sends Terminators back in time with the hopes of changing this future. By killing Sarah Connor and her son John in our present, Skynet will prevent the development of this deadly duo and will ensure its own existence in the future. John himself, aware of these attempts on his past, moves to block Skynet by sending a rewired Terminator of his own back in time to aid his adolescent self in evening out the odds.
In Stirling's incarnation, T2: Infiltrator, we find the Connors, 10 years after the events of T2: Judgment Day, running black market weapons out of Paraguayan jungles. Wanted for the destruction of various Cyberdyne installations, they live disguised and in exile, fearful they will be arrested by unbelieving authorities. But unbeknownst to them, a new threat has arrived on the horizon -- sent by the future Skynet whose very creation they have been unable to prevent. The character's name is Serena Burns, an alias for the prototypical Infiltrator-950. The I-950 is mostly human, but enhanced with an impressive array of useful cyborg components. This configuration allows the I-950 to more easily infiltrate human populations. And infiltrate she does: as Cyberdyne's own Chief of Security! Sent from the future, she is charged with watching over the fledgling company and ensuring that Skynet itself develops into the entity that it eventually becomes. But she also possesses the ability and the equipment to create several additional allies under her personal command: more Terminators.
In the Connor corner, however, is a retired Austrian antiterrorist agent, Dietrich von Rossbach, who, to their initial horror, looks exactly like -- you guessed it -- Sarah's ruthlessly cold hunter in the first Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger! How this is all explained I'll leave to S. M. Stirling. And whether any of this bears any resemblance to the upcoming Terminator 3 movie will have to go unanswered for the time being. Until that time rolls around, allow me to state that this is a very enjoyable entry into an already terrific franchise. (Peter Russo)