Here’s a column by James Davis Nicholl at tor.com: Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets
Nicholl offers a look at five worlds that can’t be easily terraformed and are lethal outside atmospheric domes. Let’s see which worlds he picks out of the pile . . .
Cyteen. Yep, good choice. Remember that the first Ari would have died because she once took a breath of unfiltered air? Of course someone killed her first so that didn’t turn out to limit her lifespan, but still, wow.
I have to say, she was not really a loss. Ari 2.0 was a LOT nicer.
Komarr. Yep again. Remember how Miles wound up handcuffed to that railing, watching someone else die because he hadn’t checked the air supply of his breather. Not nice. Personally, I’d rather live on Sergyar — at least once they got the worm plague under control.
Courtship Rite. Wow, it has been a long time since I read this. Yes, it does offer a terrible planet. No need for a dome, it’s the nutrients that are the problem, not the air. Grim social development. I only ever read it once, even though I admired it a good deal when I read it the first time.
Then a couple I haven’t read, click through to see if you have.
Here’s one Nicholl missed: Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein. Fantasy world that … wait, is this fantasy? No, look, it’s SF! With . . . are those dragons? Maaaaaybe not exactly.
The native biosphere is a real problem on this world, which is being slowly terraformed, although no one knows it except the reader. This isn’t clear to the reader either for a long time, though surely everyone figures it out when they meet the nomadic people with the goats.
The question on my mind when I think of this amazing wonderful stunning series is: should I re-read it now or wait a little bit longer and see if the fifth and sixth books actually do come out eventually? So far, still waiting. But this is my favorite truly inhospitable world, though it’s partly terraformed by the time we see it.
Who’s got another pick for a great book set on a terrible world?