This review of The Terminals: Spark by Michael F. Stewart is the result of a copy sent to Ginger Nuts of Horror in exchange for an honest review.
Everyone who has a Kindle has books on it that they buy and don’t read for months or years. Right? I bought this book in July of last year and although I meant to read it never seemed to get around to it. When it came up for review at Ginger Nuts I thought I would finally give it a go. Why the hell did I leave it so long! Another lesson learnt.
Lt Col. Christine Kurzow is lying in a military hospital in the desert, recovering after a failed suicide attempt. She lost 11 soldiers in her unit 2 weeks prior and it was clearly her fault. She can’t live with the guilt. She gets a visit from a mysterious General who begs her not to kill herself but come help him. She is now going to die anyway from the damage to her body and he wants her to join his “special” unit, The Terminals. The Terminals are a group of terminally ill people who volunteer to die early and with the help of a psychic connecting with them on “the other side”, provide information back to the living to help save lives and stop catastrophes from happening. In the interest of National Security of course.
Christine’s first mission is to handle a monk who is sent to the other side to chase down Hillar the Killer, a serial killer who was killed before he could reveal the whereabouts of 11 children he was holding hostage. She must firstly battle her own beliefs to convince herself the messages being sent back are true. When things start to go wrong, it’s not just herself she needs to convince, and who can she really trust?
So, try to put this story into a genre. OK. It’s a supernatural crime thriller with mountains of horror and philosophical elements that will make you question not only your own beliefs but those of every single person, religion and belief system in the world today. Phew. Aside from the mismatch of genres within this story, it’s such a good read.
Christine is an atheist so how can she possibly subscribe to dealing with people in the afterlife when she doesn’t believe in it? This is her first hurdle. She also has to deal with an apparently psychotic General in charge of everything she is involved in. She initially is sceptical about Attila, the psychic as well but soon learns to trust him more than others.
As well as being a bloody good read, this book examines many differing opinions on religion and which is right or wrong. Each time someone is sent to the other side they must have the same beliefs as the person they are hunting. We have an Egyptian, a Muslim and a gnostic all dying to try and save someone in the living world. Michael Stewart comes up with some interesting ideas as to what each faith might find at the other side.
In terms of the story it has a bit of everything. From the outset you have Christine trying to deal with her internal turmoil at not wanting to live. You have the mental General who is obviously doing things according to his own agenda and 11 children slowly fading as time goes by. It’s mainly a thriller in my opinion but when it focuses on the person who is on “the other side”, they do go through some horrifying scenes, full of plenty of blood and gore. When it focuses on the children as well it can be quite harrowing watching them suffer at the hands of the serial killers accomplice. Psychological horror is the name of the game for big periods as well.
All in all this is a very good read. I was pleasantly surprised with the direction it took and the way Michael Stewart keeps you glued to the story, always keeping your fingers crossed that what is about to happen is the right thing. It’s well paced with characters that are very believable and well placed in the story. Some site bill this as part 1. I do hope there is more. It could prove to be a very interesting series.
Giving a 3.5ish edging towards 4.
Sometimes the dead don’t want to talk.
You need Terminals to make them.
Terminals solve crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.
Lt. Col. Christine Kurzow, fresh from a failed suicide attempt after she cost 11 of her soldiers their lives, is recruited into the covert unit of Terminals as a handler. It's an easy sell. If she's really determined to die, it’s a chance to give her death meaning.
But her first case—convincing a monk to chase Hillar the Killer into the afterlife to find the location of a missing bus and the children it carried—has her wondering how to make a dead psychopath talk.
Christine must follow the clues sent back by the shotgun-toting monk, who tracks Hillar through the seven deeps of hell, so she can find eleven kids before it’s too late.
Maybe this time killing a man will give Christine a reason to live.