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Terraforming Earth

by Jack Williamson

(Tor, $6.99, 343 pages, paperback; February 2003.)

cover scanThe plot of Jack Williamson's Terraforming Earth begins as a simple emergency plan to rejuvenate the Earth and reinstate the human species as a macrocosm, in the event that the planet is struck by a devastating impactor from space: a meteor. As is the way of simple plans, this soon turns disastrously complicated. All of the contingency planning comes close to being worthless when an impactor suddenly strikes the Earth two years before the project's scheduled completion. Alerted to the imminent crisis, the originating scientists and two stowaways make it to Tycho Station on the Moon -- whence the plan is to be discharged -- just before the impactor hits home and life is extinguished on Earth.

The first clones of these scientists are awakened one hundred years later to begin implementing the great plan. They are cloned again and again for as long as it takes: sometimes hundreds of years apart, sometimes thousands. This is their epic journey in the chronicle of life on the planet Earth, its rise and fall, and the alienness they encounter within the life they find evolving on the devastated planet, and inside themselves.

Told from the point of view of one of the clones, Duncan Yare, and his clone descendants, the "voice" of the tale never skips a beat. The reader can almost believe that the successive Duncans are all one person. It is intentional that the clones' training and upbringing remain forever the same, because of the united purpose and special inherent skills they thereby bring to the project. So five children are repeatedly born, trained and raised in the same environment by robots for an eon, until the Earth lives again or they die trying. Many, in fact, do die in the attempts.

There are setbacks and new discoveries; shocking turns of events; an alien presence; mysteries; disappointments; love, loss and rebirth; and, above all, purpose -- but even that is questioned in the end.

This is a compelling story, well told through Williamson's deft narrative voice. If you wonder about the future of humankind and the Earth, our home, you may find comfort in this book and the possibilities if offers. Then again, you might cringe at some of the things that humanity is capable of at its worst. But, in the end, there is hope and faith in what we as a race and as individuals might ultimately become.

So read this story -- it's all in the journey. Well done, Mr Williamson, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Review by Marianne Plumridge.

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