Cover Image: The Terraformers

The Terraformers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I love Annalee Newitz writing. She is very talented and I really enjoyed seeing how she wrote this story. I was so excited for this book and when I was approved for an e-arc through NetGalley I started reading it right away.

The Terraformers is a novel about the people involved in terraforming a planet that is owned by a corporation. It follows multiple generations of people through the lifecycle of the planet (and the people’s) development. The book drops you right into the world with no explanation. While some clarifications on the world do come, it is so late in the book that you have already figured out some of it. But I have so many questions that were not answered by the end of the book. I wish I could have connected better with the characters also. It is that just when I feel connected to them, they leave the story.

The book contains a lot of themes, but they were not really connected to what felt like a solid plot. There did not seem to be an overarching arc throughout the entire book. It was more here is one mini-story let’s move on. I didn’t feel closer to anything and often in these shifts I was just confused. I had to play catch up, and by the time I figured it out, we were moving on again. It was just so much work, and I can’t tell you why. I don’t see how it added any value to the story. I feel like I am walking away without understanding the story. I do not feel like I am walking away with an understanding of why this was even written.

Identity in this book is interesting. Due to the nature of the main characters, I didn’t really connect with anyone’s identity. It is just too different. Too alien. That isn’t itself bad. Actually, it would have been awesome if something connected me to the book. Also, there is a lot of sex for a sci-fi book. There is enough spice for it to make it on a smut spice rating. Given the nature of the characters, it was pretty niche spice also. Being asexual, I didn’t enjoy any of it. It made me extremely off-center.

I wanted so much to love this book. I do love the writing, but there was nothing for me to connect with and a lot for me to question. (3.5 stars)

Was this review helpful?

This review ran long, so to sum up: this book is challenging, *extraordinarily* creative, and very intelligently crafted. It’s not particularly “satisfying” per se - it’s too realistically messy for that - but it’s one of the more remarkable journeys I’ve ever been on.

The protagonists of this book are terraformers on a privately-held planet, working to turn a barren rock into a Pleistocene paradise ready to be sold off as valuable, virgin real estate. The conflict implied there is the conflict of the entire book. One cannot craft a functioning, balanced, sustainable ecosystem from nothing without a deep and abiding respect for the work one is doing. And yet the ones in charge do *not* have that same respect - they want a planet that looks good enough on brochures to turn a profit. Anything past that towards real sustainability goes against the bottom line.

The terraforming process takes thousands of years - though people can live that long in this book, if they’re wealthy and powerful enough. There are three sections to the story. The first is set at the end of the terraforming process, as the corporate overlords are starting to put the planet on the market. The second section takes place while the initial settlements are being constructed. The final part is when the cities have been built, and the corporations and residents are determining what society will look like.

All of this takes place about 60,000 years in the future. There are no aliens in this book, but “human” no longer means what it once did. What matters is whether or not someone is a *person*. They can be a cow or a train or a moose or a naked mole rat, if they are sentient, they are a person with rights. Or they would have rights, if they didn’t live on a privately-owned world where they were literally owned by the corporation that owns the planet and were created specifically to terraform the place.

As you can probably get from this review, this book has a *lot* going on. Questions of gender and personhood. Preserving the environment vs development. Capitalism. Planned obsolescence. The list goes on.

One I didn’t expect, but give Newitz full credit for not shying away from: dating and relationships. We’ve gotten used, to some degree (not as much as we should have, but better than we used to be) to saying that biology doesn’t matter. So long as everyone is a consenting adult, a romantic relationship is perfectly fine. How does that play out when a sentient tractor is interested in a sentient panda? The logical, rational, non-hypocritical answer is that it’s perfectly fine, but it was still strange to read about that sort of thing.

Not that prejudice doesn’t exist in this world. There is definitely a pro-*homo sapiens* bias in many ways, and that plays a large role in everything too.

Like I said, this book has a tremendous amount going on. The ultimate ending wasn’t what I would call “satisfying,” because this book was too faithful to telling a realistic story. (Within the science fiction conceptualization of things. You know what I mean.) You don’t get neat endings in real life with so many competing interests. But this was an utterly *fascinating* book to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is up for a challenge.

Was this review helpful?

The Terraformers takes us 50,000+ years into the future where corporations are terraforming planets. Her world-building is truly great, from the thoughtfulness of the ecosystems to the characters within. The Great Bargain set up thousands of years ago determined which species are able to have full intelligence. Mounts (rideable creatures) can only communicate in words of one syllable; the Blessed are servants who can only speak while referencing their assigned chore, and so on.

Sask-E is one such project - the ERT Rangers carefully balance environmental conditions to make it habitable by all kinds of hominids, bots, drones, and animals. We first meet Destry, a ranger who "discovers" the Spider City, inhabited by an older species of hominids who live under a volcano. Forgotten by Verdance, the Sasky owner, they have developed their own governance. When Verdance tries to shut them down, revolt happens, with potential planet-destroying consequences. It's ingenious.

Centuries later, Sask-E faces another threat from the current corporate owner, Emerald. Destry's "child", Misha, another ERT ranger must take a stand against Big Brother. He's helped by a sentient flying train, earthworms, naked mole rats, and a disgruntled ex-employee to stick it to the Man.

Race, class, species issues
Gender inclusivity
Queer rep
Warm and cozy (despite awful things)

Was this review helpful?

An interesting time. I will say that this one is a bit less tone driven than Wells' work in my opinion, and far more plot paced. This was not altogether a bad thing, but going in expecting one caused delays to connect with the other. Solid writing, difficult concepts for the casual reader at points.

Was this review helpful?

This one was not for me, unfortunately! The themes of environmentalism and colonialism and animal rights were interesting, but the characters didn’t ever feel well-developed and the story wasn’t that engaging. It was also pretty depressing, but that’s not surprising with the topics discussed.
The book is split into three sections with big time jumps between them and new characters in each one. They are connected a bit, but it’s basically three short stories set in the same region. You get to see the long-term impacts of events, which is pretty cool.
I did read this whole thing but would have DNFd before the end of the first section if I hadn’t been reading this to review it. And after finishing it, I think the first section is the strongest of the three.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Was this review helpful?

This. Was. Outstanding! This book was so good. I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one day. The story follows the terraforming, settlement, and interconnected growth of a planet, building to a powerful conclusion. It’s divided into three sections, with each one jumping forward in time hundreds of years.

The story starts with a woman on the Environmental Rescue Team who is tasked with growing the environment and protecting it as the planet is getting ready for its first settlers. She works with an intelligent talking moose and can sense the health of the ecosystem just by touching the soil. She and her team end up finding something on the planet that shouldn’t be there, something that has major consequences for the future and the corporation that owns the planet.

Each part introduces new characters and keeps some that are familiar as you watch the planet grow up. You care about these characters. There are sentient AI and bots, intelligent animals who are people, and humans who are genetically changed.

The author manages to portray sweeping change and large timeframes in an intimate way because of the wonderful characters they draw for us. I definitely want to read everything else they’ve written, including the non-fiction.

I was completely absorbed by the continuing story. In the end this is a hopeful book. I loved it. It’s without a doubt a five-star read. It comes out January 31. Thank you to Tor Books and NetGalley for my copy.

Was this review helpful?

My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Macmillan- Tor/Forge for an advanced copy of the this science fiction novel about world shaping and world building.

The first books that I read in science fiction usually had the words "Star" and "Wars" maybe the occasional "Trek" but a lot of tie-ins to existing products that I had seen in tv, or had seen in comics. Later hitting library sales I went to the books that again featured those words on the title, and covers with ugly aliens, big guns, and lots of explosions. Dune was my first big science fiction books, loaded with ideas about changing environments, the importance of building a world that felt lived and in, and even more possible. From there I think I loved not just reading science fiction, but the ideas that science fiction gave a reader. The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz has that same feeling, big science, big ideas, and even though humans still have their same problems, many are willing to try harder to be better and reach past their limits.

The book begins with Destry, a ranger with Environment Rescue team, who is not only long lived, but very in touch with her environment, down to being able to communicate with the grass, the trees and the air around her, and knowing what it needs. The planet is Sask- E one that has been terraformed for a long time, Destry's parents and their parents took up the task, one that might be ending as the owners of the planet might be offering parts for sale. Destry has a an encounter that might risk her employment, and to distract herself from her problems offers to help another ranger and long, long time comrade investigate a problem near the lava fields. A discovery that might change everything for everybody on the planet.

The story is in three parts. The second and third take place about 700 years and 900 years or so later dealing with the discoveries, their attempts at working together, and dealing with the outside world. The book is big in ideas, but not big in size which is both good and bad. Good in that readers don't have to read a thousand or so pages to get a full story, as other writers would have probably made this a twelve book series. Bad in that there are a few subplots and even some characters that one would like to know more about, and follow for a bit more. However it is always good to want to leave readers wanting more. The science is fascinating, nothing over the head to much, Newitz is good at keeping thing explainable. The writing is very good keeping the reader locked into the story with really begins with a fascinating situation, revels itself slowly, and as the centuries pass keeps moving. Just about every problem is relatable to our present day, and it is interesting to see how Newitz includes a lot of present day thinking into the story. As I stated early it might be thousands of years in the future, but humans will still be stupid. A good mix of world building and terraforming to create a fascinating narrative.

Some people might have a problem with the book because of the real world problems of today mixing with a planet in the future. That's a shame. This is big science fiction, with big ideas and yes good fiction draws on the problems of today to show that we can go on and be better. This is my first book by Annalee Newitz, I look very forward to reading a lot more.

Was this review helpful?

I liked the hopeful tone of the story. I enjoyed the (literal) world building. Many interesting ideas that might've been more interesting to explore through less linear short stories, rather than a novel in three parts.

Was this review helpful?

I would like to thank Tor books for a digital copy of this novel. I was interested in reading this from the moment I read the description. It's a n engrossing story spanning 1600 years told in three parts--with the second part taking place 700 years after the first, and the third taking place 900 years after the second. It starts with Destry, a human network analyst who is part of a project to recreate Earth's evolution on a planet called Sask-E. Desky discovers the existence of Spider city, a city hidden formed inside a volcano. This new discovery is met with great opposition. She helps the inhabitants establish a treaty to allow them to exist as an independent entity. This treaty has far-reaching consequences and earns her appreciation and dislike by both sides of the Spider City debate. The consequences are manifested in subsequent generations as parts two and three reveal. There are some heavy ideas and concepts explored in this book, from geoengineering, housing crises, what constitutes intelligence, factory farming, to gentrification. In this world, robots, humans (descendants and ascendants), cows, moose, cats, mole rats, worms, and even trains communicate with each other. It seems that individuals can live forever by being able to inhabit new bodies. I really enjoyed this novel in its exploration of evolution, ecosystems, and corporations. I found many of the events of this novel to play out realistically as far as how real estate debates and development projects would pan out on another planet--especially one that would try to recreate Earth. I enjoyed the resolutions and revelations to the main plot points. I found the novel did a decent job of explaining its science, even if I would have liked more thorough explanations to some ideas. I understand such detailed explanations may have slowed the pacing. In the end, this is an ambitious novel touching on many pressing issues of our current world, and executing most if these ideas quite well. This was an interesting, enjoyable novel worth picking up.

Was this review helpful?

The Terraformers takes on a centuries long story of the terraforming of a new planet. Told over three generations, you get the story of how an environment is built and how the actions of one generation directly impact the next. It's astounding that Newitz is able to pull off such a tightly woven narrative when their scope is this massive. But it works and works incredibly well.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an ARC of Terraformers by Annalee Newitz!!!

I love reading books about environments and sci-fi, so I knew I would enjoy this book. This story is told in three parts and is about a planet called Sask-E that is being terraformed. The first pages were more than enough to catch my attention and I was hooked right away. I think all sci-fi fans will love this book.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you, Netgalley and Publisher, for this Arc!

This is an incredibly beautiful story of finding peace in the very far away future.

This story has three parts, all of which take place several hundred years from each other on a planet named Sask-E. It took me through one of the beginning stages for this world, and throughout the book, I could see the changes happening over a long period of time.

Terraformers is about just that, terraforming. This showed detailed processes to an incredibly eco-friendly world. It also showed the politics that take place surrounding the company owning this world, and then, creation of government for these people.

I thought this book was incredibly interesting and insightful about our world today and many of our challenges. However, it was a bit slow going for me. But, the whole picture this author presents is daring and beautiful, which left me feeling fulfilled as a reader.

Out January 31, 2023!

Was this review helpful?

DNF’d at 30%.

I’m always here for cool terraforming technology and discussing capitalism through a science fiction lens, but this book was pretty frustratingly scrambled from beginning to… well, until I couldn’t take it anymore. Clearly the author had a lot to say about a wealth of current social issues, but the commentary overwhelmed the plot to the point where I felt less like I was reading a story and more like I was being preached at. Not to mention the application of these themes themselves only served to make the world building maddeningly contradictory. I kept having to go back to the beginning of the book to see why certain things were happening the way they were happening, and the answer always seemed to be… so there could be a plot of some sort in between all the virtue-signaling the author/main character was doing? The writing style was pretty bland. The characters were completely flat, and either good or evil in the extreme. There was no internal or external conflict except between the ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, no nuance or interesting motivations, no noteworthy character growth. Ultimately, not even the cool terraforming technology was worth plodding through the clumsy execution of its various technical and thematic elements.

Was this review helpful?

Annalee Newitz does something spectacular with this book. Make no mistake: I have read everything they have written, and all three full-length novels are rich, fascinating, and extremely impactful emotionally. But THE TERRAFORMERS is perhaps their most ambitious work, and it's a tremendous success. Newitz does a tremendous job of balancing an epic story that takes place over millennia as planets are terraformed over epochs, with very real and very moving emotional stakes for its central character. Despite being artificial beings of an astonishingly diverse array of organic and non-organic life forms, they are all very real, very complex emotionally, and very engaging. This book is so impressive, and it has so much of value to say about the diversity of life, the future of our planet and others, and corporate greed.

Was this review helpful?

The book is a lifecycle of the planet Sask-E and it's terraforming and development. The first part focused on Destry, a member of the Environmental Rescue Team. Their goal, to maintain the balance of the eco-system. When a lava flow uncovers a hidden door, Destry and her team discover a city of people, the original terraformers who were supposed to die out. The second part of the book focuses on creating a public transit system to connect the planet. The third part of the book focuses on thwarting the private owners, who are determined to take over the planet for themselves.

I thought this was a well written and well developed world. My only criticism is that this felt like 3 different book. I really wanted to know more details about what happened to the characters in the previous parts. Instead, the author left their fates a bit vague. Despite this criticism, highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

Unfortunately, I could not get into this story. I usually enjoy terraforming stories but this fell flat for me.

Was this review helpful?

This book is so full of ideas, it's just stunning. It keeps drawing me back into that world for more. I've been enthralled since page 1.

Was this review helpful?

I picked up this book because I read and enjoyed "Four Lost Cities," Annalee Newitz's nonfiction exploration of "lost" civilizations as understood by contemporary archaeologists and other scholars. I was curious to see her understanding of civilization-building (and dismantling) applied to an SF setting. Well, that turned out not to be what I was in for at all! Instead, this book focuses on democracy, ethics, and exploitation. The seriousness of the ideas is offset by the fantastical whimsy of the imagery and settings. Two of my favorite characters are a sentient cat and a sentient flying train who discourse at some length on topics such as...gentrification! This is a book that's goofy but also serious, which is a sweet spot for me when it comes to SF or fiction in general.

Was this review helpful?

Youtube Short is Public Jan 16 and Blog post is live Jan 17th

TL; DR: Not for me. The characters in this were flatter than cardboard. I sincerely loved the ideas here but I couldn’t handle those characters.

Plot: The plot in this felt like it had some really ‘important things’ to say but was lost in the noise
Characters: Pick up a cardboard box and you’ll have way more depth. Did not come across. Not good.
Setting: Great idea here, the world felt real and vibrant
Tech: More great ideas here! Loved these ideas but again, murdered by my intense dislike of the characters


In full honesty this was a DNF for me. The characters were incredibly flat to the point that the whole store felt stale. It was unreadable for lack of any real character depth or interest. The events of the novel felt almost manipulative because of how flat the characters were.

However the ideas here were fascinating. If you’re looking for a novel with intensely interesting ideas and you can completely ignore the characters then I would recommend this. From the company that focuses on terraforming for profit to the point of creating their own persons to do it, to the ideas of personhood that raises and worth, it had some super interesting things going on. For me I couldn’t enjoy those. The characters, which should have held up the stories here were just… bad and flat.

Was this review helpful?

A new world with only 1,000 more years of terraforming left before becoming a human paradise; a set of (remarkably long lived) “rangers” whose job is to terraform and protect the fragile environment; a money hungry (is there any other kind?) mega-corporation intent on capitalizing their investment a little early; and some “people” who were created to survive in the original (non human breathable) environment but shunted aside once the world could support “standard” human life. This is the setting in which Newitz can explore just about every PC hot button that exists: rich vs poor, a**hole right wingers vs right thinking lefties, eco sustainability, and the (more interesting) sapient beings of all forms who have been decanted (created) in richly formatted types — full sensory remote beings, flying moose who can text but not speak, and humanoid beings who can live in harsh (ie no breathable atmosphere) climates without technical support. Plenty of gender/sexual preference diversity as well.

It’s well imagined, with lengthy descriptions of the world and diverse cultures that I really enjoyed. Quite a lot of action and a little heavy on the (obviously) good guys vs (more obviously) bad guys front, and a little long winded on the battle / intrigue / angst for my taste, but overall some very interesting commentary and exploration of what it means to be human — especially when you have been “created” for specific (and not your own) purposes…

Was this review helpful?