cover image The Terranauts

The Terranauts

T.C. Boyle. Ecco, $26.99 (528p) ISBN 978-0-06-234940-8

In his 16th novel, Boyle (The Harder They Come) weaves a sprawling tale of achievement, yearning, pride, and human weakness. On March 6, 1994, eight “Terranauts” from different scientific backgrounds enter E2, a sealed three-acre world within a world outside Tillman, Ariz., to embark on the grand hundred-year vision of billionaire futurist Jeremiah Reed (known portentously as “God the Creator”), “one of the first to recognize that our species... was well on its way to destroying or at least depleting the global ecosystem and might just need an escape valve.” Narrated by Dawn Chapman, the affable, telegenic darling of the crew; Linda Ryu, the book’s id and a spurned Terranaut whose close friendship with Dawn sours as the project wears on; and Ramsay Roothoorp, the sexually adventurous man-child whose incessant rationalizing, political plays, and mercurial personality provide much of the story’s humor (and twisted psychological insight), the two-year mission exposes the fragility of interpersonal relationships and tests the limits of the human body. In a multilayered work that recalls the tragicomic realism of Saul Bellow and John Updike, Boyle observes his characters with scientific rigor and a good deal of genuine empathy as they struggle to maintain their identities in the most communal of settings. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary. (Oct.)