Infiltrator, by S. M. Stirling

infiltratorHer peripheral vision caught a Jeep passing by outside.  The driver was male, no passengers.
Adrenaline kicked her heartbeat into overdrive and her stomach clenched like an angry fist; her breath stopped as though she’d been suddenly plunged into cold water.
Sarah froze with the sandwich almost in her mouth.  I can’t be having the DT’s, she thought.  I wasn’t drinking that heavily!
She could have sworn that she had just seen a Terminator drive by.
-Sarah Connor’s first glimpse of Dieter von Rossbach

If you thought blowing up the Cyberdyne Corporation was going to stop the Terminators, think again.

It’s amazing to me that a movie nearly twenty years old still works today.  Of course, Star Wars and Star Trek and others have done it, so why not this one?  For those who may not have seen the movies The Terminator or Terminator 2: Judgment Day, here’s a brief recap.  At some point in the future, approximately around the 2020’s, humanity has nearly become extinct; mostly because of an artificial intelligence called Skynet, which was originally designed for defense, and decided that humanity in general was a threat-so it started a nuclear war which did in most of humanity; then it constructed machines to kill the rest.  One of the most frightening machines were the Terminators:  built to look human, but were all machine.  Designed to infiltrate and destroy the pockets of human resistance within.  It wasn’t the best in the world at infiltration, but it was very good at killing.  And they were very hard to stop, even with futuristic technology.  Things were dim, until a man named John Connor managed to lead humanity to victory over the machines.

Almost.  In a last ditch effort to deal with the problem, Skynet sent back in time a pair of Terminators, one a highly advanced model, to attempt to kill John Connor before he became a problem.  Connor sent back two operatives to prevent that.  The Terminator tried to kill his mother, Sarah Connor; the second, John when he was a young kid.  In the process, the first operative fell in love with Sarah and managed to father a child-John (I hate time travel).  The second operative was a modified Terminator that helped Sarah and John destroy Cyberdyne, the corporation that built Skynet, before it could actually do so.  Having broken a large number of laws in doing so, they fled the country, secure that they had prevented that terrible future from ever happening.

It’s not that easy.  This is the basis of T2: Infiltrator.  In the future, prior to John Connor’s victories, Skynet begins a project to infiltrate humanity again-but this time, it does so using human embryos.  One of the first is called Serena, a model T950.  She’s close enough to human to even fool dogs (who have always had a knack for sensing the wrongness of a Terminator).  She infiltrates a human resistance cell, and is very, very close to getting at John Connor when Skynet recalls her.  It seems that something funny is occurring with time, and she is to be sent back in time to insure the birth of Skynet.  And if she should do in the Connors in the process, so much the better.

Meanwhile, in Paraguay, the Connors have managed to set up a life for themselves.  Sarah’s running a shipping/smuggling business, and John’s in a military academy.  However, their lives are shaken up considerably when their new neighbor arrives to start his own ranching business; probably because he looks exactly like the T101 Terminators sent to alternately kill and protect the Connor’s.  However, his own background is just as potentially dangerous to the pair.

A great deal of this book is setup.  It chronicles the early training of Serena and her infiltration of humanity-both in the future and in the present, and it chronicles the recent history of the Connor’s and the rebirth of Cyberdyne.  Once people start interacting, though, things start happening quickly.  There’s also a number of subplots going on at the same time-a character named Tricker, whose true identity and purpose remains secret, is influential in getting Cyberdyne back on its feet; a fellow named Ron Labane travels the country, who is fearful that one day, machines are going to be able to do without people.  While it seems that he’s got a good insight on the future, he’s also a fruitcake-a very dangerous fruitcake.

One of the things I was rather amused by was the fact that the voice of the familiar Terminator is not the voice of his look alike, Dieter von Rossbach; however, the fellow supplying that voice is in this book-the accent is written so perfectly that for a moment I thought this character was Dieter!  As for Serena herself, she didn’t really give me the same feeling of implacability as the original Terminators; those things just kept coming and coming.  On the other hand, what she lacks in quality, she makes up for in quantity; read the book, and see what I mean.

It’ll be interesting to see if T2:  Infiltrator matches up well with the rumored Terminator 3 movie that is bandied about the internet so often; after all, the rumor implies the next Terminator will be a woman…like Serena.  There’s apparently no connection between this book and the rumored movie.  It’ll be even more interesting to see what happens in the next book-because there’s a couple of gaping loose ends left hanging at the end of this one.  On its own, Infiltrator works okay, even if it seems like it has too many balls in the air at once sometimes.

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