I just reentered my usual world after spending some time inside T.C. Boyle’s E2 world with The Terranauts: A Novel.
“The Terranauts” are eight scientists chosen to live in E2 (Earth 2) as opposed to E1 (the planet where we all currently live). E2 is a glass-enclosed terrarium that includes a rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean, and marsh, and theoretically everything they need to cultivate for surviving two years until they are allowed back out into E1. As part of a scientific project and publicity stunt, the E2 inhabitants are closely monitored by the experiments’ creator and the public, making it an “epic story of science, society, sex, and survival” as the book cover promises.
The narrative is told by three different characters, two who were selected as Terranauts and a bitter “frenemy” who did not make the final cut.
I loved this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I missed the action and drama going on inside E2. When I finished it, I wanted to know what happens next in E2. Part of me is still living inside E2!
There are environmental themes of course (like is this sort of constructed world going to be needed after we destroy our own?), but it mostly revolves around themes of human nature and human dynamics. There is also an element of “reality TV” as the inhabitants’ lives are watched by all, and Mission Control tries to control the actions inside as best they can.
I usually prefer books and stories that “could happen” as opposed to science fiction or fantastical. This book was a perfect mix of possibility and I found it believable that this new world could possibly be constructed (speaking as a non-scientist of course).
And all the Terranauts’ actions and interactions are real, oh so real.
The Terranauts: A Novel would be a great book club book; after I finished it I just wanted to discuss it with someone, especially all the juicy details that I have to leave out of this post so you can experience them for yourselves!