March 14, 2023

Review: The Terraformers

The Terraformers The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd label this as another "ideas" book, as it is stuffed full of interesting ideas and well-developed characters. What is less successful is its plot, which meanders over about sixteen hundred years from the initial terraforming of the planet Sask-E, owned by the corporation who designed its development and its titular "terraformers," to its eventual freeing from said corporation and a possible transition to a publicly owned planet.

There are three novella-length sections that make up this book, each with its own set of protagonists. These novellas--especially the first, subtitled "Ecosystem Maintenance"--are interesting in their own right (the concluding novella, "Serve the Public," features a sentient train!) but their integration into an overarching storyline is less successful. Maybe that is the overarching storyline: that revolution is messy and uneven and takes time (in this case a whole lot of time, in a universe where people live for hundreds of years and look back on their centuries and/or millennia like we remember things we did 20 or 30 years ago). There are really no Big Bads as such. The evil corps are driven back, and the woman who comes closest to being an antagonist, Ronnie Drake from the Verdance Corporation, the original owner of Sask-E, at the end helps to turn the tables on her most hated enemy, Cylindra, from the competing Emerald Corporation--and not so coincidentally, set the planet on the path to being free from corporate ownership altogether.

Maybe the book is a bit messy and uneven as well, but there are so many fascinating facets to its worldbuilding that I could overlook the lack of a strong plot. In the acknowledgments, the author states that they "wrote this book because I wanted to dream up a more hopeful world," and if that was their goal, I believe they succeeded.

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