Annalee Newitz: The Terraformers (Hardcover, 2023, Tor Books) 4 stars

From science fiction visionary Annalee Newitz comes The Terraformers, a sweeping, uplifting, and illuminating exploration …

Engaging, but could have been better

3 stars

I didn't enjoy this as much as I'd hoped to.

The plot is broad in scope and sweeps across a period of a couple of millennia. Although set almost 60,000 years in the future it touches upon (and in some cases dives deeply into) themes that are very relevant in the 21st century, and the writing is generally engaging.

So why didn't I really like it? A couple of things: the structure of the book (three sections each set approx. 1,000 years apart) meant that just as you were starting to really understand some of the characters they were left by the wayside and a whole new set of individuals got introduced. At the end of each section it felt to me that there was still a lot of potential development of both plot and characters, and maybe this book could have worked better if each section was significantly expanded and extended and published as a trilogy.

(minor spoilers below)

I also felt that for a book where the overarching theme seemed to be "small people" fighting back against money-driven capitalist corporations, there was one glaring problem. Namely: if over the next 55,000 years the socio-economic structure of society doesn't really change from the current capitalist one, that's a very depressing message for anyone who would like to see change.

And seeing as the novel is written almost entirely from the POV of characters who WOULD like to see change that strikes me as a very odd way to approach it. Essentially the author seems to be saying "although it would be wonderful to see The System overturned, people have been trying to achieve that for 50,000+ years without success. So it's never going to happen".