‘Terminal Peace’ – Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse #3 by Jim C. Hines

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos and her team were trained to clean spaceships. They were absolutely not trained to fight an interplanetary war with the xenocidal Prodryans or to make first contact with the Jynx, a race who might not be as primitive as they seem. But if there’s one lesson Mops and her crew have learned, it’s that things like “training” and “being remotely qualified” are overrated.
The war is escalating. (This might be Mops’ fault.) The survival of humanity—those few who weren’t turned to feral, shambling monsters by an alien plague—as well as the fate of all other non-Prodryans, will depend on what Captain Mops and the crew of the EDFS Pufferfish discover on the ringed planet of Tuxatl.
But the Jynx on Tuxatl are fighting a war of their own, and their world’s long-buried secrets could be more dangerous than the Prodryans.
To make matters worse, Mops is starting to feel a little feral herself…

The final book in the Janitors of the Post-apocalypse caught me by surprise – in a good way. The elements that I enjoyed most about the earlier books were still there but the tone had changed.

I got to cheer for the human underdog, winning through ingenuity and daring and by refusing to play the conflict game by the rules. Mops, the genius human leader of the multi-species band of janitors who have been thrust into the role of saving the human race and possibly the universe, isn’t just better at tactics and strategy than her opponents, she has a different definition of winning. One where as many people as possible on all sides survive and the whole wasteful process of war is abandoned. That’s not easy to do when the most efficient killers in the galaxy define themselves by their ability to conquer.

I got to smile at the quiet humour that runs through the book, sometimes based on unintentionally inappropriate references to the now largely destroyed human culture, sometimes just from the banter between a crew I’ve come to know well and occasionally from the way Mops rebukes someone without shouting at them – like the new engineer, proud of his prowess, who has made an error that cost Mop’s ship its weapons pod. She gets him to walk through his actions until his mistake hits him in the face like the handle of a rake that he’s just stood on.

I got to admire, again, Jim Hines’ ability to dream up aliens who really are alien while still making them beings that I can empathise with.

So what was different?

Mops is going feral. She’s reverting to the mindless, savage, almost impossible-to-kill creature she was before she was ‘cured’ by the aliens who unleashed the plague that made her that way. She’s going to lose everything that makes her her. And she knows it. And neither her genius nor her bravery nor her friends and allies can do anything about it except watch it happen.

I found this deeply affecting, as I imagine anyone would who has watched someone they love lose themselves to disease and death.

Yet Jim Hines didn’t let ‘Terminal Peace’ become a dirge for Mops. Mops accepts the inevitability of her own decline but she doesn’t just curl up in a ball and give in. She makes plans and she trusts her team to do what she won’t be able to do.

I won’t share the plot because that will spoil the fun but I admired the way Jim Hines had the members of Mops’ team accept their expanded responsibilities and carry on in a way that Mops would have made Mops proud.

The outcome was as clever and unexpected and pleasing as ever but, for me, it had more impact than the earlier books because Mops’ reversion added something sombre that balanced out the wise-cracking and the anarchy, giving the team’s mission more focus and weight.

I loved this trilogy. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t start here. Read ‘Terminal Alliance’ and Terminal Uprising first. And when you do read ‘Terminal Peace’, read the Author’s Note at the end to hear what inspired the change in tone in the last book of the trilogy.

Jim C. Hines is the author of the Magic ex Libris series, the Princess series of fairy tale retellings, the humorous Goblin Quest trilogy, and the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. His latest novel is Terminal Peace, book three in the humorous science fiction Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse trilogy. 

He also won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. 

He lives in mid-Michigan with his family.

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