Twenty previously published stories, assembled by SF’s most prolific editor, in which writers old and new imagine how other planets might be shaped into havens for human life. Like time machines and faster-than-light space travel, terraforming is a familiar SF concept that accepts as almost inevitable the notion that human beings will use technology to turn hostile extraterrestrial environments into something resembling vacation destinations. In his introduction, Dozois, the indefatigable assembler of some 80 anthologies in 30 years, finds that a new fascination with terraforming is part of a larger trend in which locations within our solar system are again being used as settings for “hard science” adventures. Avoiding stories about orbiting space colonies, Dozois prefers mostly tales of variously reconfigured Mars and Venus. At one extreme is late grandmaster Poul Anderson's “The Big Rain.” Here, the poisonous Venusian landscape (think of Siberia with formaldehyde winds) is a metaphor for the fascist regime running the planet. At the other is newcomer G. David Nordley’s vision of a Venus so similar to Bermuda that the only way to beat the crowd of eager colonists is to take a wild, thrilling sky glide down from space. A Mars inexplicably gripped in an ice age seems more like an enchanted version of the northern California coast to a group of natives in Kim Stanley Robinson's “A Martian Romance.” The godlike powers turn a psychotic into a saint in Ian MacDonald's “Catherine Wheel,” a world-making consultant into an accessory to murder in Robert Reed's “A Place in the Shade,” and a brash creative genius into Promethean destroyer in Roger Zelazny's “Keys to December.”
A varied, interesting, and worthy examination of human characters whose need to change their environment is inextricably linked to their need to change themselves.