In Regards to Chapters 1 through Chapter 4 of
Jonathan Letham's Girl in Landscape
5 February 1999
On the opening side note, some scientists know how to terraform Mars: I've heard speculation that even on terraforming the Moon. But the bottom line is the speculation means nothing until they actually go and try it.
Or does it? Consider Israel, the Jews have taken a desert and transformed it into a garden. While it may be a bit more difficult to make an atmosphere breathable, and certainly more work to terraform an entire planet, it seems quite possible, providing we can get to the planet we wish to terraform.
On an aside to the aside, I'd like to recommend Frank Herbert's Dune, Mike Resnik's Paradise, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Legacy of Herot, and Dave Wolverton's Serpent Catch as interesting science fiction novels where terraforming plays a central theme.
Letham does a great job of raising unanswered questions in the first few chapters of the book, such as "Who are the Archbuilders?" and "What are household deer?" and the big question "What shall become of this family when they get to the new world?" This last perhaps sets us up for a "Lost in Space" type of feel, since it's among the rare instances of science fiction (at least to my knowledge) where we encounter children being thrust off Earth and into the unknown universe. However that comparison can not be taken to far since the Robinson's maintained a mother and remained a functional family.
It is undeniable that the beginning of this book is post-holocaust. How important that is, beyond being a motivating factor for this family to leave Earth, even while not so problematic to keep other families away, is questionable. Living underground kind of reminds me of Logan's Run, although these novels had little else in common. A more significant relationship can be drawn to Ben Elton's Stark in which we watch humanity make this world unfit for habitation.
The beach is dangerous. This is merely an extrapolation of what we already see from our own experiences at the beach.
The beginning of this book supplies us with many images of death, instantly belying any temptations to read this as a "Lost in Space ripoff". It helps to show how destroying our world is simultaneously destroying us and helps prepare us for the heavy issues which the novel laterintroduces. It also prepares us for something less than a happy Utopian ending since we are shown death as a reality.
This is particularly relevant since we see the mother die of cancer. I personally felt the timing and method of her death were just too convenient. Seems healthy and then instantly gets sick and dies just before they leave Earth. Granted, Letham would have told a different story if he did not kill the mother, but I think he could have found another way to do it that would have been better integrated. Perhaps the mother should be dead before the book begins. Or perhaps she should die of complications within a cryogenic unit. Her instant cancer, instant death just seemed to be out of nowhere and too convienent.
It did not bother me that Letham decided to throw out the mother and had an idiot father. Granted, these were not original ideas, but they did not seem impossible nor improbable and the book would have been significantly different if he did not.
We are shown that Pella is maturing into a woman, thirteen, and we are even told of her first period. Not sure how to interpret this last fact. It seemed gratutous, except for in a minor way reinforcing that this girl has already begun to physically mature. Perhaps it's because I'm not a woman, but the passage didn't say much to me. Women bleed, and?