Book Review: Terraformer
Written by Colleen Houck
Published by Trident Media Group
Publication date: 12th May 2020
Summary (from Goodreads):
A new dystopian sci-fi YA series from the New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck
Warning all Astronauts:
COLONY BOUNDARY WARNING!
PERMISSION TO ENTER ALIEN FOREST IS REQUIRED
NOTE: NO RESCUE ATTEMPTS WILL BE MADE
In the future, a terraforming ship lands on a perfectly green planet.
Two perfect young men, one a budding colony leader, the other an engineer, compete for the affection of one perfect young woman training as a botanist.
The only problem?
She’s not perfect.
Astra has a secret.
A big one.
And someone or some thing just maybe trying to kill her for it
Deadly toxins can be hidden inside the most beautiful flowers.
That’s what Astra Meador’s famous biophysicist mother taught her.
As her mother’s apprentice, Astra has developed skills in botany, chemistry, medicine, and, most importantly, in keeping secrets.
In fact keeping Astra’s secret was the reason her family decided to leave the Earth and join a terraforming mission to colonize a distant planet called Crillain IV. But when Astra wakes early from hypersleep, she discovers that her mother never made it onboard, her father died in transit and his body has been ejected from the ship, and she suspects that she’s not the only one awake.
When the ship finally lands and she’s reunited with her brother, Nash, Astra hopes to settle into a new life, especially when she meets the charming young engineer, Jax, and is recruited by the mission commander to train alongside his handsome son to be a future leader of the small colony.
Then Astra learns that she’s not the only one with a dark secret.
As both young men contend for her affection, Astra searches for answers, trying to determine who to trust. But with theft and murder occurring in the colony along with the sudden disappearance of her beloved brother, Astra can’t listen to the whisperings of her heart, especially when someone or something else on the planet is whispering to her mind even louder.
My body jerked. Where was I?
A glass dome covered my body. I shifted my arms but they barely moved. Trying again, one arm thumped the side of my metal coffin.
Breathe. My mouth opened but my lungs wouldn’t move. It was my most common nightmare and my worst reality.
Little spots danced across my vision. I blinked through the fog and saw the red light in the corner of the glass and the message that was scrolling across the screen.
STASIS POD WARNING
HYPERBARIC CHAMBER OXYGEN SYSTEMS COMPROMISED
BACKUP SYSTEM FAILURE
ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE DESTABILIZING
VENTING OUTSIDE AIR
TRIGGERING NEUROMUSCULAR ELECTRICAL STIMULATION
The thick vapor filling the chamber dissipated as it washed over me. It had enrobed me, saturated my skin during hypersleep, giving my body what it needed to survive in transit.
But something had gone wrong. Maybe a breach in the containment system. I heard a series of clicks and a whirring, then precious bursts of vacillating oxygen were pulled in through the vents.
Now I was fully alert. The system had done its job in resuscitating me, but I still couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. The problem with my respiration wasn’t the pod’s fault. It was mine.
The facts were evident. My own body was failing me, and if I couldn’t kickstart my own system, I was going to die.
Alone. In space.
First impressions: I wanted to read this based on the title alone! I have always been fascinated by the idea of planetary seeding and terraforming so that immediately caught my attention. One of the things I have always found so interesting about terraforming is the fact that any terraforming mission would likely take hundreds of years. Technically, we have the technology to begin terraforming Mars, but creating a breathable atmosphere would take at least 150 years, even before doing anything else!
The cover caught my attention next, reminding me more of a cover for a fantasy book than a sci-fi one. I love both fantasy and sci-fi so decided to dive in and request an e-ARC.
The story starts with Astra waking from cryosleep several weeks before the rest of the crew due to a malfunction of her stasis pod. This immediately creates a sense of tension, especially when it seems as if Astra might not be the only one who is awake. Things move and she finds another stasis pod hidden in the ship that isn’t on any lists. If I were her, I would be paranoid and intent on getting to the bottom of this mystery, but Astra seems more interested in finding out more information about the plants and inventory on board. This gives us necessary exposition, but I felt that it was a little unrealistic that she would just dismiss the computer malfunctioning, especially when she visits her father’s pod and things become even stranger…
There is mystery layered upon mystery in this book and I really enjoyed the descriptions of alien plant life described on the planet, particularly with the appearance of hybrids later on. I was less keen on the romance aspect as it seemed like it was heading towards a love triangle – my pet hate! Luckily, Astra didn’t spend much time vacillating between her two love interests, although I found it a bit irritating when she chose to muse on how attractive Jax was even when they were in apparent danger.
I wanted to learn more about Nash and his relationship with Astra, his older sister. There were tantalising hints of the world they had left, with those with less than perfect DNA being shunned and her parents going to extreme lengths to hid secrets about their children. I fleet that Nash was under-utilised as a character because his exchanges with Astra are stilted from the start so, as a reader, I didn’t become as emotionally invested in their sibling relationship as I wanted to.
This story started very promisingly and has much to recommend it to fans of sci-fi or young-adult romance novels. Some of the events in the second half of the book were a little confusing, but I am hoping that this will be cleared up in the sequel.
What did other people think?
Praise for TERRAFORMER
“I was rooting for Astra and entranced by the seamlessly crafted world of TERRAFORMER! Colleen Houck gives you a chilling glimpse into what can happen when technology and nature collide.” —Kimberly Derting, author of award-winning young adult novels The Body Finder, The Pledge, and The Taking
“A richly imaginative page-turner!” —Melissa Landers, bestselling author of Blastaway, the Alienated trilogy and the Starlight duology
New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she’s not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.
Thanks for reading!