Destry's life is dedicated to terraforming Sask-E. As part of the Environmental Rescue Team, she cares for the planet and its burgeoning eco-systems as her parents and their parents did before her. But the bright, clean future they're building comes under threat when Destry discovers a city full of people that shouldn't exist, hidden inside a massive volcano. As she uncovers more about their past, Destry begins to question the mission she's devoted her life to, and must make a choice that will reverberate through Sask-E's future for generations to come.
The reader of Annalee Newitz’s third novel, The Terraformers, will surely walk away, stunned and bedazzled ... This generously overstuffed tale has enough ideas and incidents to populate half a dozen lesser science fiction books. But the reading experience is never clotted or tedious, never plagued by extraneous detours. The story...rollicks along at a brisk clip while allowing Newitz space to dig into characters and milieu, and pile on startling speculative elements ... [Newitz has] indeed gifted us a vibrant, quirky vision of endless potential earned by heroism, love and wit.
An ingenious, galaxy-brain book ... Newitz is a thorough and meticulous world-builder, almost to a fault — the narrative often delves deep into Sask-E’s weeds. But the heart of the story is a straightforward culture clash layered atop a capitalist critique ... The Terraformers may be the best novel you’ll read this year about a tragic romance between two moose-like creatures. ... Newitz is generally more comfortable operating at the macro level — plate tectonics, river flow and transit all play central roles in the book’s plot, and each is handled with intelligence and often a delightful weirdness ... Points can get clotted in the book’s late going, as Verdance leadership becomes increasingly one-note and authoritarian; even the inevitable battle scenes can feel passionless in comparison with Newitz’s true passion, urbanist rhetoric. And because the book’s three-part structure introduces a new set of characters each time, it’s harder to feel invested in any one of them, even as their homes are blasted into oblivion ... In some ways, Newitz has done the job too well. The Terraformers is so good at imagining how people undermine their own societies that it seems downright miraculous imagining we’ll make it to the year 3000, let alone 30,000. But Newitz’s optimism is well-argued and enchanting.
The Terraformers is less a novel than three novellas, each one foregrounding distinct but related groups of characters across three different eras ... There’s a lot to enjoy and admire here. No one writes weird vulnerable intimacy quite like Newitz, whose books always contain at least one casually delivered insight that quietly explodes the mind. The Terraformers contains several — but those insights and ideas end up provoking more questions than they can effectively explore. Using a post-scarcity world to tell an allegory about late capitalism is an awkward endeavor; though this novel is about literally building a world, it invites a lot of world-building questions, and the focus on the planet’s development ends up crowding out the development of its characters ... It was frustrating to feel as if there were a limiter on the book itself, preventing it from examining its conflicts and compromises to the extent they deserve.