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The Terranauts: A Novel by T. C. Boyle
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The Terranauts: A Novel (2016)

by T.C. Boyle

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1951360,388 (3.32)16
  1. 00
    Dreaming the Biosphere: The Theater of All Possibilities by Rebecca Reider (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Das Biosphären-Experiment hat den Roman von Boyle inspiriert.
  2. 00
    Biosphere 2: The Human Experiment by John L. Allen (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Das Biosphären-Experiment hat den Roman von Boyle inspiriert.
  3. 00
    The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2 by Jane Poynter (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Bericht einer der Teilnehmerinnen des ersten Biospäre-Experiments, das den Roman von Boyle inspiriert hat.
  4. 00
    The Martian by Andy Weir (JGoto)
    JGoto: Very good survival story with points of view of the survivor and Mission Control.
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I like T.C. Boyle. He writes highly readable novels with themes drawn from popular culture, current events, or topical historical figures. In this case, he goes back to 1994 and writes a fictionalized account of life in a biosphere built in the Arizona desert. The three acre biosphere consists of five biomes, an ocean, a rainforest, a savannah, a desert and a marsh. The eight terranauts--four women and four men--are sealed into the dome to live two years in this environment with no outside resources--all food, water, air, and other necessities to be created from within, "Nothing in; nothing out," the group's mantra.

Each of the terranauts has a specialized duty. There is a medical doctor and a marine biologist for the ocean. One tends to the domesticated animals (pigs, chickens and goats), and one is a wildlife specialist. Others have various duties, and all must participate in subsistence agricultural duties. The biosphere is named "New Eden," and is to be the prototype for an eventual off-Earth colony. The terranauts are monitored by outside staff, and observed by tourists visiting the site.

The novel is narrated in alternating sections by three characters: Dawn, the domesticated animal tender; Linda, who trained with the eight terranauts but was not chosen for the mission and who is therefore highly resentful of those inside; and Ramsay, whose primary duties are PR related, and who is primarily a womanizing, party-man.

As in his other novels. Boyle has done his research, and there is a good deal of science relating to the planning and implementing the biosphere, as well the intricacies and hardships of actually living for an extended period in such a closed environment. However, I found much of the novel to be a soap opera, albeit one in an exotic setting. In particular, the female characters came across as bitchy and back-stabbing and the men as sex-starved frat boys. The novel feels like it is more about their messy relationships and jealousies than their scientific endeavors. One Amazon reviewer said this was a novel of "middle-schoolers under glass." I agree.

2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jul 14, 2017 |
Set in the 1990s just outside of Tucson, Arizona, E2 awaits! It’s a big glass dome that houses a complete ecology and acts as a model for possible future biodomes on other planets. That’s if we can just get it consistently right here first. Linda Ryu and Dawn Chapman are best friends, at least until one of them is picked over the other to actually go live in E2. Ramsay Roothorp has a libido that may be his undoing.

I went into this book with pretty high hopes. I read reviews and I also had my own fascination since teen years with biodomes. Unfortunately, this book fell short. It wasn’t bad but it was more about the messed up relationships these folks have than about any science that goes into the biodomes or the survival skills of the terranauts. I really wanted it to be more balanced but instead it was just one character or the other grumbling, scheming, or being bitchy. There was little else going on yet the author had this perfect set up to tell a great story.

OK, so while I didn’t love it, I obviously liked it well enough to finish it. The story started off strong with the 16 candidates all training together in the various skills – from swimming to farming to animal slaughter. They not only have to be good at any job that needs to be done inside a biodome, they have to be able to get along with their team mates in the most difficult of circumstances. Think of all those team building work retreats times 10. While everyone know this is a competition to be one of the history making 8 that actually gets to go into the biodome, they still have to act like they get along with everyone and really want all their team mates to be successful.

Great set up. But once we get the 8 packing up to go into E2, nearly all the science goes out the door and enter the bitchy, scheming side to all the characters. At first, I was OK with this because I thought it was going to be a phase for some of the characters and that things would come back around to more interesting stuff. Alas, no. The story just stays in that phase for the rest of the book. Because of that, I felt that most of the characters were pretty superficial. We saw how their characters could develop but then the author didn’t get them past this jealousy phase.

Anyway, there is one big twist towards the end of the book and that gives us a few little twists off of it. Plus I like all the references to tacos. Food was often on the main characters’s minds since those in E2 had a limited menu and limited calorie intake. Definitely makes me think I can do a better job of creatively cooking up the contents of my kitchen cupboards.

The Narration: The narration was really good. Each of the ladies, Joy Osmanski and Lynde Houck, did a great job. I don’t which lady took which main character (Dawn Chapman and Linda Ryu) but they were each distinct and each did a great job getting the catty behavior across. Charlie Thurston was a really good sex-obsessed Ramsay Roothorp. I could clearly feel the character’s frustrations with how things turned out for him. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | May 4, 2017 |
I got to around 150 pages into this book and realized this one was just not for me. I gave up the fight and returned it back to the library. I had such high hopes and thought the premise sounded really great but it felt completely flat to me. I figure I gave it enough of a shot though to see that it wasn't the book for me. :-/ ( )
  AliceaP | Apr 24, 2017 |
T.C. Boyle likes to write about historical events using fictional twists. Specifically he enjoys exploring human nature in closed societies, especially if those societies have charismatic cultish leaders. Certainly, THE TERRANAUTS fits that pattern. In fact one could argue that being too formulaic is one of this novel’s shortcomings. BioSphere 2 was a failed experiment—cum publicity stunt—to see if humans could survive in a closed and self-sustaining environment. This happened in the early 90’s in the Arizona desert and serves as the inspiration for Boyle’s novel.

Of necessity, the setting of the novel is claustrophobic. Eight scientists (terranauts) are sealed for two years in an artificial environment located in the desert near Tucson. Following a previous failure where containment had to be breached, these terranauts are determined to succeed. “Nothing in, nothing out.” The three-acre structure contains five environments, animals (both domesticated and wild) and enough vegetation to provide sustenance.

The premise is interesting, but the story quickly takes on the nature of bad reality TV because of Boyle’s unfortunate choices of narrators and his failure to give them much backstory. These three individuals are unreliable, vapid and petty. Indeed, they are not the kind of people you’d want to follow for 500 pages. Dawn Chapman is pretty, but vain and self-centered. She is in charge of the farm animals. Linda Ryu is a scheming and untrustworthy faux friend who did not make the team this time, but remains hopeful. She is Asian American and justifies her failure to make the cut as racism. Ramsay Roothorp is a manipulative womanizer and backbiter. All of the other characters in the book are seen through their eyes and thus seem equally flawed. Particularly noteworthy are the leaders of “mission control,” the people on the outside who run the show including the marketing. Jeremiah Reed, who the crew refers to as “God the Creator,” is a billionaire futurist in the Elon Musk mold. Judy Forester, known as Judas, is his conniving lieutenant and lover. These biblical references are just a few of the many that Boyle sprinkles about in the novel.

The terranauts face all of the challenges one might expect in this situation: food shortages, oppressive temperatures and dangerously low oxygen levels. However, as one should expect from a Boyle novel, the real drama revolves around the interpersonal relations (including sexual) between the crewmembers as well as the “mission control” folks.

Boyle displays considerable empathy for his narrators, often seeing humor in their machinations. Yet uncharacteristically, he is not able to bring them to life as real people who anyone might actually care about. Instead they inhabit the novel as shallow, scheming and self-involved players. Boyle clearly sees these people as flawed, but seems ambivalent, accepting that they may be evincing common human traits. At one point in the novel, the terranauts stage Sartre’s play, “Huis Clos.” This is the story of condemned people who conclude that “hell is other people.” This reference is as close as Boyle comes to condemning their bad behavior.

Boyle makes a few half-hearted attempts to write satire or religious allegory but these generally fall short. Likewise, he plays with some larger themes like environmental decay, shallowness of marketing in the media and even racism but these efforts never rise to prominence. Instead the reader is condemned to watch flawed people scheme for advantages that just seem trivial. Of course, the real BioSphere started out with the best of intentions but ended in a fizzle, so why would one expect the fictional one to be any different? ( )
  ozzer | Jan 25, 2017 |
At first I questioned why Boyle went with such unlikable unreliable narrators. At several points in the novel, I wished they would either drown in the fake ocean, or drunkenly crash their car into the outside of the dome. He didn’t, which is why he makes the big bucks. Well done. ( )
  railarson | Jan 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
At this point in his career, Boyle is an old hand at mining the friction and frisson that grows within cloistered groups of human beings ... Ultimately, though, Boyle navigates his well-worn territory with sensitivity and finesse.
added by amanda4242 | editNPR Books, Jason Heller (Oct 25, 2016)
 
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Wir sollten nie daran zweifeln, dass eine kleine Gruppe umsichtiger, entschlossener Menschen die Welt verändern kann. Tatsächlich ist dies das Einzige, was die Welt je verändert hat.

Margaret Mead
L'enfer, c' est les autres.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis Clos
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Man hatte uns von Haustieren abgeraten, desgleichen von Ehemännern oder festen Freunden, und dasselbe galt natürlich für die Männer, von denen, soviel man wusste, keiner verheiratet war.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062349406, Hardcover)

A deep-dive into human behavior in an epic story of science, society, sex, and survival, from one of the greatest American novelists today, T. C. Boyle, the acclaimed, bestselling, author of the PEN/ Faulkner Award–winning World’s End and The Harder They Come.

It is 1994, and in the desert near Tillman, Arizona, forty miles from Tucson, a grand experiment involving the future of humanity is underway. As climate change threatens the earth, eight scientists, four men and four women dubbed the "Terranauts," have been selected to live under glass in E2, a prototype of a possible off-earth colony. Their sealed, three-acre compound comprises five biomes—rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean, and marsh—and enough wildlife, water, and vegetation to sustain them.

Closely monitored by an all-seeing Mission Control, this New Eden is the brainchild of ecovisionary Jeremiah Reed, aka G.C.—"God the Creator"—for whom the project is both an adventure in scientific discovery and a momentous publicity stunt. In addition to their roles as medics, farmers, biologists, and survivalists, his young, strapping Terranauts must impress watchful visitors and a skeptical media curious to see if E2’s environment will somehow be compromised, forcing the Ecosphere’s seal to be broken—and ending the mission in failure. As the Terranauts face increased scrutiny and a host of disasters, both natural and of their own making, their mantra: "Nothing in, nothing out," becomes a dangerously ferocious rallying cry.

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 Terranauts brings to life an electrifying, pressured world in which connected lives are uncontrollably pushed to the breaking point. With characteristic humor and acerbic wit, T.C. Boyle indelibly inhabits the perspectives of the various players in this survivalist game, probing their motivations and illuminating their integrity and fragility to illustrate the inherent fallibility of human nature itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 May 2016 18:50:10 -0400)

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