Chamblee54

The Terranauts

Posted in Book Reports, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on June 23, 2017


PG was trolling the Chamblee library, and saw a copy of The Terranauts. This is the latest novel by Tom Boyle, an author who PG enjoys. Something was needed to look at in those times that require reading material: warming up the car, eating, waiting rooms, and parking lots. If the story gets good, this can progress to stretching out on the couch, and letting other pastimes wait. This book report may have spoilers. Read it at your own risk.

Terranauts are people who go into an enclosed bio-sphere. The sentence is two years after enclosure …. nothing in, nothing out. The story is told from the POV of three people: Dawn Chapman, Linda Ryu, and Ramsey Roothorp. The story goes chapter by chapter, with the narrators taking turns. In the spoiler alert above, it might be noted that the primary characters are already spoiled. Dawn and Ramsey are chosen for the mission, with Linda sulking on the outside. Veteran novel readers know what is going to happen with Dawn and Ramsey.

The library works on a three week cycle. After twenty one days, you either return your book, or renew it for another cycle. Terranauts was mildly amusing at first, but not compelling. The story went on. None of the story tellers was terribly likeable, but seemed to be competent at doing what terranauts do. The facility, nicknamed E2, or earth two, became a character of sorts. There was a nasty power outage. The crew came within minutes of having to break enclosure, or die for the cause.

After six weeks, PG was roughly half way through. When he got to the library, a copy of Tropic of Cancer was waiting. PG had requested TOC months earlier, and had given up on receiving it. You cannot renew a requested book, so PG had three weeks with Henry Miller’s scandalous output.

Henry Miller is tough to pin down. There are interviews on youtube. Mr. Miller talks about how the French include women in their conversations, and have a lot of respect for them. This benevolent attitude is the direct opposite of his novels. The Miller character in TOC is a pig. The story is beautifully written, despite, or maybe because of, the flawed characters. PG has the sense that it was conceived in French, and then transcribed in English. TOC has a prose poem feel to it. You want to slowly read it, line by line, and then stop and savor it. You probably will not finish in twenty one days.

When it was time to return TOC, The Terranauts was on the front shelf. This is the shelf with frequently borrowed books that have not been relegated to the stacks. PG decided to take Terranauts home. Within a few pages, Dawn was pregnant. Ramsey was the daddy. Linda was not happy. The story now has a macguffin, and is fun to read obsessively.

Dawn goes on to do what she wants to do. Ramsey goes along with it, until he doesn’t. At about the due date, the novel begins to get weird. The plot does not register. Dawn becomes more abstract. The story finally comes to a conclusion, of sorts. Linda is a bitch. Ramsey is a bastard. Dawn is just sort of there. E2 functions as well as can be expected.

Tom Boyle is a competent, enjoyable word craftsman. PG gets the sense that The Terranauts was a story that defied easy conclusion. The Terranauts may not change your life, but the portion of this life spent reading it will not be wasted.

Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Photographs were taken by Lewis Wickes Hine. Most of the hospital pictures were taken June 12, 1918. “Dressing the wound Military Hospital I, Neuilly” The group photograph appears after the text. “American Red Cross on the best of terms with Belgian children at an American Hostel for refugees at 46 Rue du Dr. Blanche, Paris. June 1918”

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