Recently finished Dean Motter’s 1996 classic, Terminal City. Some assortment of thoughts:
– It is a stylish piece. The titular city channels the art deco future imagined during the1930s World Fair: zeppelin docks, hover cars, clashing analog clocks, robot desk clerks, pneumatic tubes, high technology without the miniaturization, etc. Michael Lark’s art design, the thematic elements, and interweaving characters’ plots gives the setting a noirish aura.
– Some more on the art deco settings: it reminds me a little bit of the mid-90s Batman: The Animated Series.
– I can’t seem to confirm intent anywhere, but there appears to be a number of homages to Herge’s Tintin comics. There is a professor who bears a striking resemblance to a royal seals expert from King Ottokar’s Sceptre. Two comical, bumbling mustachioed twins channel Thomson and Thompson. (“What’s his name?” “Yes, Watt.” “No, what’s his NAME?”). There’s even a Latino general who bears a striking resemblance to General Alcazar. The name of his nation? Alcazar.
It was tough to care about the plot of Terminal City; it was a little bit all over the place, lagged in tying together all of the characters’ arcs, and the characters themselves were largely forgettable. However, it is just enough to keep the reader engaged in the world, and more importantly the city, and that is all that matters. What really strikes me about Terminal City is that the book is genuinely about the city, with the denizens as peripherals. Considering the dilapidated state of Terminal City, the reader is meant to recognize the design flaws in a future that was conceived to be a spectacle at a fair: splendor without substance. It is not a future that was ever meant to be lived in, and the malcontent state of humans signifies that. The setting is interesting to consider in the frame of urbanization; are the aesthetics worth austerity? Despite the weak-even-for-noir plot, this book does something rather special in terms of giving a personality to the titular city, and I would have a difficult time not recommending this book if you can get your hands on it.