The 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)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on the world created in the motion picture written by James Cameron and William Wisher, this superior franchise fiction is the next best thing to Terminator 3. Stirling (Against the Tide of Years, etc.) is a skillful writer of action SF who has studied both the first Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) carefully. He gets the details right, and he's also thought about how, after two failures, the evil master computer of the future would modify the robots it sends back in time to kill its nemesis before he grows up. The new Terminator is female, mechanically and genetically enhanced but able to masquerade as a normal woman. She interacts with and attempts to manipulate a large cast of characters that includes, naturally, Sarah Conner and her now-teenaged son, John. Mother and son imagine they're safely hidden in Paraguay, their anti-machine crusade over, until they are noticed by a retired secret agent who happens to be a double for the nasty Arnold Schwarzenegger/first Terminator. When he innocently discovers who they are, the new Terminator also finds out and sends mechanical assassins after them. And the novel, which has been moving along steadily and efficiently, shifts into high gear. Stirling structures the plot well, and the action builds to a gripping climax which doesn't really conclude much, since this series obviously is intended to run many more books. If they're done this well, it will be an enjoyable ride. (May 8) Forecast: Robots from the future won't be able to stop this sequel to the $204-million domestic grossing T2 film from charging up genre bestseller charts. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter OneCincinnati: 2021, Post-Judgement Day
Multiple sensors scanned the broken wasteland of the ruined city as the Hunter/Killer's treads rolled its massive steel body over the rusting wrecks of automobiles, crushing the bones of their long-dead drivers. The tortured metal squealing of its passage frightened flocks of birds into flight and sent more earthbound animals scurrying for cover.
Piles of scorched and shattered brick and concrete, twisted steel, and broken glass blocked the HK's view to one side or the other. Sometimes it made its way through canyons of rubble. Then, inexplicably, a wall that had somehow survived the blast wave would stand before it, only to be shattered by the machine's passage.
The HK's satellite feed had shown what appeared to be massive human troop movements in this area. Thus far no information the machine had collected verified those reports.
It checked its omni-directional sensor array for a possible equipment failure. All systems were on-line, no failure detected. No targets detected. The machine reviewed the satellite information indicating human activity to the northeast. The machine continued on its way, tireless, unrelenting, utterly lacking in self-awareness.
Until Skynet touched it. Then the most brilliant, and from a human standpoint, malevolent intelligence ever created looked out through the HK's sensor windows. It wondered why satellite information disagreed so completely with the reality before it. There were no humans here.
Until recently there never had been; humans avoided the big cities that had perished in the first wave of nuclearexplosions. Skynet knew that they feared exposure to lingering radiation. That was why Skynet opted to place its satellite receivers, its antennae and repair stations, within their ruined confines.
But now, at the orders of their charismatic leader, humans almost swarmed over these once-deserted places. Skynet's killing machines -- its appendages -- had been destroyed, the satellite arrays and antennae -- its eyes and ears -- had been crippled.
Somehow, because of John Connor, the humans had rallied. They were fighting back.
Skynet switched its consciousness to the processor of a nearby T-90. The stripped metal skeleton of this first in the series of Terminators reflected sunlight in brilliant sparkles, as though its chassis had been polished. It marched through piles of bones, its heavy feet snapping them like dry twigs, and climbed through the rubble, checking the small spaces in which humans might hide, head turning from side to side ceaselessly.
It found neither sign nor sight of humans.
Skynet considered this as it rode the T-90's body. If there were no humans present, and the satellite continued to report their presence while diagnostics found no systems failure either in space or on the ground, then only one conclusion was possible. The humans had found some way to directly interfere with Skynet's feed. A variation on signal jamming.
This could seriously impair its ability to defend itself. Skynet recognized the tactical importance of this. The humans would be able to feed it false information at will. As they appeared to be doing now. The giant computer began searching for anomalous signals being generated in the area but found nothing.
A human would have been both frightened and frustrated. Skynet simply instituted a new routine, directing the T-90 to go directly to the ground-based antennae located at the center of this dead place and begin searching.
Lisa Weinbaum hunkered down as low as she could and checked her watch. Only forty seconds since the last time she'd looked.
Beside her the small box she'd wired in to Skynet's antennae and signaling array blinked its two lights and hummed quietly. Its purpose was to feed false information to Skynet. The particular scenario it was playing now should ensure her, and more importantly, its safety.
This was only a test, but the techs said it would require at least half an hour of running time to be sure it was working. Five minutes more and she was out of here...she hoped.
Lisa herself was a tech in training, which was why she'd been accepted when she volunteered. They couldn't risk losing a full tech, and she had enough education to understand the instructions her trainers gave her. It lent the mission an extra edge. And, as it turned out, once she was on-site, implementing the unit had required some jiggering to make things work properly. But so far all signs pointed to a successful test.
If it was, then getting out of here ought to be a walk in the park.
Whatever that means, she thought, scanning the lumpy horizon. It was something her dad used to say, one of those sayings where you picked up the meaning from context. Like piping hot, or having your cake and eating it. What the hell was cake anyway?
She checked the time. She'd succeeded in distracting herself for thirty seconds this time. If the test was working then Skynet's forces should be stumbling to the northeast, searching for a mythical force of humans advancing on the city.
She heard the sound of metal striking stone and her breath froze in her chest. Weinbaum. stretched her neck forward, straining to hear. Was it something falling, or was it something coming?
Cautiously she backed away from the open service hatch toward the unit. The techs might want half an hour of running time, but they were going to get a few minutes less. Weinbaum stood beside the console and began to dismantle the jury-rigged connections she'd made. With quickfingered efficiency she had the unit disconnected in seconds.
Then metal struck stone again. She let out her breath in a little huff, feeling strangely hollow from the chest down and surprisingly calm. I'm caught, she thought. What to do? She couldn't let them find the unit.Weinbaum looked around at the explosives she'd wired the place with. T2: Infiltrator. Copyright © by S.M. Stirling. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.