The Terranauts by T. C. Boyle is another delightful creation by the Shakespearean genius of our time. Each of his novels is like a Shakespearean masterpiece. Boyle takes known stories of the day and reproduces them into a wonderfully written, engaging, and magical event, just as Shakespeare did with his plays. The Terranauts, his latest novel, takes on the story of Biosphere 2 and replays it like the maestro he is. Biosphere 2 is a 3.14-acre enclosure in Arizona that provides an environment for eight scientists, Terranauts, to replicate life on earth in preparation for life on another planet or in space. He uses facts and weaves in his own drama and storyline to create the drama. The tale is told through three narrators: Dawn Chapman, the ecologist in the crew and the beauty every man wants; Ramsey Roothoorp, the loose cannon, hound dog, and “why is he here” kind of a guy; and Linda Ryu, one who didn’t make the cut, second string and hopes for the next mission, Dawn’s best friend, caretaker of her car and apartment, and angry. As the action unfolds we, the reader, are passed from narrator to narrator to narrator as we hear the events from three different points of view.
The drama begins in the lower level with eight, four men and four women, who become the second inhabitants of the biosphere for a two-year mission. The support staff are the next inhabitants as well as the administrators of the project, the upper level. In any closed and close environment involving men and women for two years the tensions are going to be frequent, testy, and sexual. Everything is public, open, and observed. Secrets don’t exist and there isn’t anyplace to hide. Feelings get hurt, punches are thrown, and friendships end. “Before you set out for revenge, be sure to dig two graves.” Civility and love take a beating in this story of backstabbing at the lower level and political intrigue at the upper level. Boyle takes a simple concept and idea, men and women interacting and probes it and milks it for all of the human elements of interaction and deceipt, which makes him the genius he is as a writer.