January 31, 2023

The Terraformers

By Annalee Newitz
Review by
Entertaining and full of thorny questions about the fate of humanity, Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers explores a distant, corporation-controlled future.
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Warm, imaginative and often funny, Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers thoughtfully examines the price and cost of corporate colonialism and humanity’s ever-present need to expand.

In the distant future, Destry, a ranger who works for the Environmental Rescue Team on planet Sask-E, discovers a hidden city. Destry and the rest of her team are tasked with ensuring ecological stability on Sask-E, which is owned by the terraforming corporation Verdance, before Verdance sells plots of the planet’s land to the highest bidders. The ERT thought they were the only inhabitants of Sask-E. But the city Destry discovers is populated by an entire previous generation of terraformers, and she and the ERT consider whether to stand against Verdance and their murky motives. Centuries later, while a planetwide conspiracy threatens everything the ERT has done to turn Sask-E into a hospitable planet, the fallout from Destry’s conflict with Verdance resurfaces.

The Terraformers is an expansive, entertaining book, full of comprehensive world building and exacting detail. Every living thing in the terraformed areas of Sask-E provides data that flows back to the ERT: Messages can be sent through blades of grass or through water. Robotic drones converse with people, and genetically enhanced animals can communicate via text message. Newitz giddily explores the convergence of digital and ecological systems, and their enthusiasm is infectious. The Terraformers is full of parallels to contemporary issues (corporate greed versus environmental sustainability, the intersection of machines and humans), and while Newitz intensely examines these topics, the reader will never feel lectured, bored or disconnected from the characters.

But once The Terraformers concludes, the questions it poses remain. In our race to remake the universe for ourselves, what kinds of stewards will we be?

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The Terraformers

The Terraformers

By Annalee Newitz
ISBN 9781250228017

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