The work of award-winning essayist and fiction-writer Scott Russell Sanders has been compared to that of Emerson and Thoreau, as well as to that of Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard. In Terrarium, he infuses his ecological vision into a timely and beautifully wrought science fiction novel.
Phoenix thought of her as the barefooted walker. From the morning when she first loomed into view like an unpredicted planet, she set up fierce tides of desire in him.
On that morning the pressure inside Oregon City and inside his head seemed no greater than usual, no more conducive to visions. A blue wig dangled stylishly about his ears, facepaint disguised his features, and a portfolio of satellite film beneath one arm identified him as a man bound for the office. chemmies regulated every bodily process that needed regulating. All his life was in order. But when Phoenix emerged from his apartment, ticking off the day's plans in his mind (work, then breeze-tripping for lunch, electro-ball in the afternoon, and eros parlors in the evening), suddenly there she was, a barefooted woman pacing in the wrong direction on the pedbelt. Slap of naked flesh on the conveyor. By matching her stride to the speed of the belt she managed to stay at the same point in the corridor, just opposite his doorway. Bustling along, yet never stirring from her chosen spot, she reminded Phoenix of the conjoined whirl and stillness of a gyroscope.
Surely a madwoman. Escaped from the health patrollers. Phoenix backed rump against his apartment door just as it clicked shut. Embarrassed, he glanced down, but not before catching a glimpse of red hair escaping from the woman's hood, her cheeks showing feverishly through a skimpy glaze of cosmetics, her green gown actually darkened with perspiration below the arms and around the neck. The corridor trapped her scent, forced him to breathe it. Smell of hot animal. Her knees, thrusting against the gown at each step, nudged a raw spot in his brain. Just a beast, a throwback, he thought--and he felt aroused and ashamed.
By lowering his gaze, he hoped to give the woman a chance to recover her senses, to withdraw from his life. But down below were those naked feet, slapping the pedbelt, and they sent his gaze skidding back up along her flanks and spine to the hooded face. So he had the misfortune to be staring at her luminous green eyes when she turned on him and said, "It's called walking, you idiot."
"...his novel often reminded me of such classic dystopian works as Zamiatin's We and of Le Guin, with his parallel devotion to conservation and spiritual harmony (though Sanders's roots are Quaker instead of Taoist). Readers who enjoy exploring ideas in human settings will want to savor this book." --Len Hatfield, Fantasy Review
"How can we survive and progress without letting the same mistakes overtake us again and again? Rather than retreat, as some groups propose, this writer suggests we move forward in joyful communion with the universe of which we are a part. He does this with a simplicity and an elegance that lead to an understated, yet mind-blowing conclusion." --West Coast Review of Books
For all my worries, I wrote Terrarium with a sense of hope, and on rereading the book I find that hope renewed. The earth remains fertile and resilient. No matter how far we have retreated indoors, we are inseparably bound to the earth through our senses, through our flesh, through the yearnings and pleasures of sex, through the cycles of birth and death. Like Phoenix, any of us may wake up to discover where we truly dwell. Like Zuni and Teeg, we may labor for what we love, no matter how many voices tell us to give up. Like the colonists gathered on the Oregon shore, we may use the wealth of human knowledge to build communities that are materially simple and spiritually complex, respectful of our places and of the creatures who share them with us. We may seek holy ground together. Even in dark times, we may keep telling stories, witnessing to a wild beauty that we do not invent, a power we do not own.