17 Best Sci-Fi Books About Terraforming

Terraforming means changing a world’s environment for human survival. To alter an entire planet to your need and wants is something that many scientists dream of and even though we haven’t been able to do it yet, we will one day.

Until then, you can curb your cravings with these amazing Sci-Fi books about terraforming from some of the best sci-fi authors. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

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1. Dune by Frank Herbert

Paul Atreides is his family’s sole heir. He will one day take over the unhabitable planet called Arrakis that his family rules over because of the abundance of the spice Melange on it. It can enhance both a person’s mind and life and is the most sought-after spice in the universe.

But, his family gets betrayed, his father is killed, and he is forced to run for his life into the desert. This is just the beginning of his journey as he becomes the legendary man known throughout the universe as Muad’Dib and attains humanity’s oldest dream.

Planet terraforming is not the main focus of Dune but it is definitely important to move the story along. If you’re looking to read books with a heavy focus on terraforming then you can skip this one.

2. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A race for survival began when the last remaining humans left a dead earth in a spaceship and started looking for a new human. Their resources are limited and they must find a habitable planet before it’s too late.

Fortunately, there was a planet that humans had terraformed and abandoned a long time ago. This new world is ready for the taking, or so they thought.

The planet has new masters now and they have turned it from mankind’s refuge to their worst nightmare. As the two civilizations prepare to stake their claim on the new Earth. who will win? Will humanity perish with them?

Also, check out some similar Sci-Fi books with Exotic Ecosystems.

3. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

At first, people were happy that whatever collided with the Moon didn’t hit Earth, but then the scientists realized the coming danger. The broken parts of the moon will soon start falling on Earth and destroy every living being.

Nations came together to protect humanity and get off the planet as soon as possible, but human nature led to their destruction before the meteors could and in the end, only a handful of people survived.

Thousands of years later, seven distinct races, descendants of the surviving humans, embark on a mission to an alien planet terraformed by nature and time. The planet formerly known as Earth.

4. Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

Sci-Fi Books About Terraforming

For decades, humans have been thinking of colonizing Mars and finally, in 2026, 100 colonists have been sent to do exactly that.

John Boone, Arkady Bogdanov, Maya Toitavna, and Frank Chalmers lead the large team of experts in various areas to slowly terraform the climate and surface of Mars.

Giant satellite mirrors must be used to reflect more sunlight on the planet, massive tunnels are to be built to create vents of hot gases, and much more is to be done, but as much as people want to change Mars, some would do anything to prevent it.

5. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Terraforming a planet is too much work. Why don’t we just terraform ourselves to survive on inhospitable planets?

Humans have invented a technology that can terraform people and give them new features and abilities. Ariadne is an astronaut on a space vessel venturing from one planet to another gathering data about them. As the ship travels from one planet to another, Ariadne and her crewmates sleep and then wake up with new features.

But, time moves differently for them than on Earth. The next time she wakes up, her home country or even Earth might not even exist anymore. But, that is none of her concern as her only goal is to explore planets and send data back home.

6. Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Living in the year 2108, Andrew Grayson is tired of the crime-ridden welfare tenements and the horrible-tasting soy he has to eat every day. There are only two things he can do, either win the lottery and get rich, or join the military.

So, he joins the military in the hopes that he can finally get some real food, which he does, but it comes at a steep price. The galaxy holds much more dangerous people compared to the government or the gangs in the slums, and as part of the military, it’s his job to fight them.

7. Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

If the terraforming is successful, Komarr will become a garden within a thousand years, but it may not be possible when the solar mirrors necessary for the process are destroyed by an off-course spaceship.

The Emperor of Barrayar sends Lord Miles Vorkosigan to investigate the incident and make sure the terraforming process continues. But, he is one of the most distrusted people in the empire because of a betrayal by the older generation of his family.

The Komarrans with him could be loyal subjects or they could be rebels waiting to kill him. To make matters worse, if he doesn’t solve the mystery soon enough he might get exiled.

8. Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

Set in the near future, the world is suffering due to global warming causing superstorms in the troposphere, flooding, rising sea levels, deadly heat waves, pandemics, etc.

One man has a master plan to reverse the effects of global warming and save the people from suffering anymore, but would his plan work, and if it works, are there any consequences for the Earth or Humanity?

Follow a group of characters from different parts of the world all tackling the disasters and repercussions of global warming.

9. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Set in the year 2312, humanity has colonized multiple planets and moons throughout the solar system.

Swan Er Hong’s job is to design worlds and help terraform them but things take a wild turn when a murder is committed in the city of Terminator on Mercury and she gets thrown right in the middle of it.

Now, she’s tangled up in a type of solar system manhunt to find the murderer before they lead to more destruction.

10. Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

In an overcrowded Earth, brave people hope to migrate to other planets and colonies of Earth. One of these people is Bill, a young farmer, who wants to move to Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons.

His father warns him that it’s too dangerous of a mission but he somehow manages to get onto a colony ship called Mayflower headed to Ganymede.

His father was right and he soon learns that farming on Ganymede is much different than on Earth.

11. Strata by Terry Pratchett

Planetary engineer Kin Arad is intrigued by the idea of a flat planet. After all, planets are supposed to be round as they follow the laws of physics.

She sets off to find this flat planet along with her two alien friends – a four-armed super fighter, and a bear-like historian. Together they go on an adventure and meet Vikings, demons, dragons, robots, and much more.

12. Destiny’s Road by Larry Niven

On planet Destiny’s rocky surface, a Road was seared by the power landing craft called Cavorite. Humans from Earth came to the planet on Cavorite which later abandoned them with no way to contact home.

The people built a small civilization and now, their descendants are curious about the Road. No one has ever returned after going down the road and the mystery behind it is too much for the young Jemmy to ignore.

So, he sets out on the Road and along the way learns more about the planet itself and the minds of his ancestors.

13. The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

Destry’s job on planet Sask-E is to prevent ecosystem collapse and terraform the planet to become Earthlike. While on her mission, she discovers a city that isn’t supposed to exist inside a massive volcano.

Torn between her loyalty to the organization and her humanity, she makes a decision that would shock the coming generations.

Centuries later, Destry’s protege, Misha meets the brilliant engineer Sulfur who lives in the volcano city. They soon discover a dark secret that could destroy the lives of millions.

14. Building Harlequin’s Moon by Larry Niven

Artificial intelligence and machine/human hybrids control most of the solar system and some people decided to run away in a spaceship. They were originally headed to a planet called Ymir which they would then terraform, but an error caused them to get off the path and end up in a completely different solar system.

With not enough antimatter to reach their destination, they are forced to land on planet Harlequin’s moon called Selene which already has life on it.

It is up to the ship’s head terraformer to make Selene their temporary home and rebuild their stock of antimatter. For this, he plans to use the illiterate original inhabitants of the moon.

15. Burning the Ice by Laura J. Mixon

Hundreds of years ago, a small group of people stole a starship and escaped to a remote planet called Brimstone. The only problem is the planet is unhabitable as it’s completely covered in ice, yet somehow the future generation still survives and has built a colony.

Everyone is always close to each other and there’s zero privacy, which is unbearable for Manda since she doesn’t get along with the others. So, when she gets the chance to leave the colony for a scientific project to study the planet, she takes it.

With politics still taking place in the colony and people keeping dangerous secrets, Manda’s discovery of life beneath the ice surface can change everything.

16. The Depths of Time by Roger MacBride Allen

The universe is filled with terraformed worlds and colonies, and people use wormholes called Timeshafts to travel the great distance between these worlds.

As an officer of The Chronologic Patrol, it is Anton Koffield’s job to protect the Timeshafts and prevent any time paradoxes from happening. But, on his mission to send supplies to a crippled planet, his team gets attacked and he is forced to destroy the timeshaft and stop the invasion.

The people of the planet died without the supplies and even though he did what he should have, he became the ‘villain that destroyed a world’. Now, stranded eighty years into the future, his journey through time is just beginning.

17. In the Shadows of Deimos by Jane Killick

It is the year 2316 and Mars has been colonized by humans. Large corporations have been formed on Mars and they all plan to terraform the planet, but they all have different ideas on how to do it.

When an asteroid crashes and destroys a research center in Mar, killing the sole technician on it, it’s clear that this was not an accident. Wherever humans go, corruption and greed follow.

Though they have different agendas, two Martians hope to expose the people in power and prevent Earth’s corruption from taking root on Mars as well.

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