Science Fiction, and in particular works related to the planet and ecosystems, rarely find their way into my reading list. Prompted by the challenge to read something I wouldn’t normally, I thought it was the best time to head over to this genre.
I slightly recall the real Biosphere 2 project in Arizona that happened in the early 90s – more than likely it was thanks to Pauly Shore’s low brow movie Bio-Dome inspired by those events. I thought reading something based the real eco-dome built for a group of scientists to survive in—sealed—for two years, with the intent of mimicking survival on another planet would be fascinating.
In The Terranuats, this second mission (yes, they reference the first real one)—is filled with pettiness, naked ambition, and jealousy, with only slight appearances of science and concerns about the planet peppered throughout. It felt a lot like everyone was constantly talking about who is better looking and who’s sleeping with whom – much like a combination of Survivor and the Bachelor.
I seriously wonder if Boyle’s a misogynist as he talks constantly about the bodies of the women to the point where he even describes that virtual starvation makes Dawn radiant and beautiful – and yet he never mentions what the men look like. Even the original synopsis includes such a focus and should have been enough to raise the red flags before reading.
Told through three distinct narrators—Dawn Chapman, the mission’s pretty young ecologist; Linda Ryu, her bitter, scheming best friend passed over for E2; and Ramsay Roothorp, E2’s sexually irrepressible Wildman—
The women’s appearances come up a LOT, noting that all the chosen ladies have light-colored hair and are measured how pretty each of them was. ‘Why did he sleep with her, I’m prettier’, ‘She’s not even pretty’, ‘They picked the pretty girls even though I’m smarter’. It’s not only petty but redundant.
The book is told from three different points of views – something I usually have a hard time with because many times authors fail to show variation in voice. That is exactly what happened here. The tone and syntax of every section are exactly the same. There were times I had to double check which narrator I was even reading.
Many of the characters, especially the narrators, are unlikable. They are catty, egotistical self-obsessed people who are supposed to be devout scientists but seem to be mostly focused on the fame and fortune that will come from the experience instead of the implications of their work or the potential outcomes for their research. The minor characters are underdeveloped. There are eight people in the biosphere – two main characters, three characters to help with plot points, and three characters I forgot existed.
The book talks less about long-held concerns about our ailing planet and takes on more of a soap-opera approach which drags on for more than 500 pages. Even if Boyle is trying to point out that human nature might and does thwart everything in the end, being our own worst enemy, it was done in a very boring, immature and irritating manner.