Cover Image: The Terraformers

The Terraformers

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Ah! This was such an interesting sci fi story! I've never read something quite like this... about the future of the world being formed by humanity.

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Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for allowing me to read and Advanced Reader´s Copy.

This is a series of three interconnected novellas, with a few hundred years between each one of the three.

Initially I was put off by the opening scene, which stroke me as somewhat silly/hypocritical. One human living in the wild does not create so much pollution that they must be killed, much less by someone who is supposedly working on ecosystem on a global scale! Volcanos, wildfires, predator/prays oscillations create bigger imbalances and are still part of nature.

After that the story takes a slow travelogue feel but soon comes some interesting action. There is a mix of interesting ideas and more questions than answers. I would say that the main conflict is a National Park vs Disneyland ethic in land stewardship. A big corporation (or two?) owns the planet to be terraformed, and the people on it. So that's clearly slavery but the characters don't mind much , until the cities start to be gentrified (!).

There's "ambient queernes", as [a:Charlie Jane Anders|4918514|Charlie Jane Anders|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1532450668p2/4918514.jpg] has recently explained on Instagram. The characters give their name and pronouns and there is gender variety. I found it hard to be invested in sex scenes, and at some point it seems that some characters' genitals were replaced by flower parts, which I found confusing (;-). There are uplifted animals being treated as people <spoiler> including earthworms, but by some reason, not ants or bees</spoiler>, and also AI robots. So diversity is very literal. Maybe a drawback is that they all act as people (or, more specifically American 21st century urban people) and their personalities do not reflect much their diverse backgrounds.

I wasn't completely sold in the idea of <spoiler>the ribbons that could create plate tectonics. Where would the energy come from? The same for the brains of the earthworms. In this case, this is handwaved by "quantum magic"</spoiler>.

It felt sad to leave the characters when time jumped from one part of the novel to the next. This indicates that they were likeable characters, quite interesting.

The planet being terraformed, Sasky could be renamed "boring planet"! It has no distinctive features, climate, or views. Why would someone want to cross interstellar space to visit it? (it's designed as a tourist attraction) It offers no dangers or unexpected characteristics. The cities, in contrast, offer some interesting architecture, urban planning and venues.

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One of the blurbs I saw for this book suggested it for fans of Becky Chambers, and I get it, because, like Chambers, this book is a character-focused, optimistic look at a possible future in which people take care of each other in a world of very cool technologies. But this book is a long, sprawling epic, telling the story of the terraforming of a whole planet over thousands of years. And somehow still cozy. A cozy sprawling epic should be impossible, and yet, here it is, just waiting for you to add a nice hot beverage and a very, very long bath.

In this universe, "people" might be almost anyone, hominids, animals, or artificial intelligences. We're following the story of the Rangers charged with forming and protecting the environment of a developing planet, and the corporations whose goal is selling that planet as homo sapiens-only vacation properties for the very wealthy. It's the best of environmentalism versus the worst of capitalism, with world-building so well done that by the time you get to the subplot about the train falling in love with the cat, it won't even seem strange to you, and your reaction will simply be, "Aw, they make such a sweet couple." This is Newitz's best work yet.

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The Terraformers has an interesting premise, but I had a hard time connecting to the characters. There are a lot of fun aspects to this book - recreating earth-like conditions on a planet, a secret hidden society, and animals that are equal members of the society. What was frustrating is that I never felt like I got to know any of the characters well enough to understand their motivations, hopes, and fears. Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in return for my honest opinion.

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I thought this book concept was super interesting and I was hooked pretty much the whole time. Annalee Newitz did such a wonderful job building this world and the characters. I really liked Destry and her internal monologues, as I felt that I could relate to her the most. The writing is great and the storyline flowed nicely together.

Overall, I loved getting to know more about Spider City, a lost city hidden in a volcano, and the inhabitants that live there. There was truly much more the world had to offer and Destry had to learn to uncover it. The characters were well written and were a joy to read about. Overall, I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you love a good sci-fi book!

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillian-Tor/Forge for this free arc in exchange for my honest review.

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