Saturday, Aug 12, 2023
Review by Abe Ziesing
When a novel is literally about building a new world, you'd expect the world-building to be the principal literary element of concern, for both writer and reader; and indeed, THE TERRAFORMERS is a stone-cold tour de force when it comes to world-building, but for me, it's much more.
Tens of thousands of years into the future, terraforming planets is big business, and Sask-E is the latest offering for investors, entrepreneurs and rich tourists to enjoy, exploit and ravage. The only problem is that this soon-to-be privately owned planet already has an 'indigenous' population consisting of the intentionally expendable workers that built this world and failed to die off. Made up of a diverse mixture and entertainingly quirky robots, hominins and hybrids, these people are going to have to band together and fight a war of diplomacy and creative work-arounds if they are going to survive the tsunami of humanity that's headed their way.
THE TERRAFORMERS dives deep into ecological issues that are all-too-real for us today. Annalee Newitz masterfully explores environmental matters across a planet-spanning spectrum of concerns, from the impact of construction on soil chemistry, to relations between mole rats and earth worms, to tectonic plate shifts and volcanic activity. If you enjoy books that deal with environmental issues in a futuristic setting, then make sure to give this book a try.
Another focal point is politics - local, global and even galactic - especially the fireworks that go off when oligarchic capitalism faces off against democratic socialism. Newitz does a wonderful job of hypothesizing what these interactions would be like in the setting that they've created, and never comes off as preachy. They give the reader a well-rounded take on politics in general, that again, rings true for us in the here and now, and allow for any 'lessons to be learned' to be left up to the individual reader to divulge for themself.
On the surface, THE TERRAFORMERS is a fun and goofy space opera, split into three parts, each with its own intense climax and spanning many hundreds of years; but, if you want something deeper, it's there for the taking, because there is more than one way to skin this cat.
Creative, thought-provoking, delightful.