fantasy and science fiction book reviewsTerra Formars by Yu Sasuga 

TERRA FORMARSTerra Formars is a science fiction manga that takes place on Mars, and if you aren’t totally creeped out by roaches, then you might be able to deal with this very violent, but action-packed, story. The astronauts sent on this mission are not picked for their intelligence or exceptional skills; rather, this group is made up of those considered disposable. Some are poor, some are criminals, but all are not valued by those in power and running the mission. These Terra Formars are treated as science experiments to send off to Mars to deal with the roach problem.

In making Mars habitable for human beings, the scientists have introduced moss and other plant and bug life into the Mars ecosystem. The main bugs are cockroaches that have evolved and need to be disposed of before Mars can be used as an outpost for Earth. Unfortunately, these roaches have evolved a little more than the team expected: The roaches are now extremely large, muscular and fast humanoid creatures that begin killing the team members the minute they land.

terra formarsThe members of the team have been prepared for this battle by being forced to undergo dangerous operations that give each of them an edge against the humanoid roaches: Even though they still look human, they can turn into large human-insect hybrids via injection. They all underwent different operations and carry on them a different set of injections: One roach exterminator turns into a particularly dangerous type of bee, another into a specific type of attack ant, and so on. Unfortunately, almost all of these powers do them no good, and the roaches quickly slaughter most of the team.

It’s a fast-paced volume with much less decompression than I’m used to in Japanese storytelling: In other words, instead of taking five hundred pages to kill off most of the team, it takes only about one hundred pages. I think future volumes will involve more complications that make for more complex storytelling, much the same way Kill Bill Volume One was all action and Kill Bill Volume Two was more conversational.  In this first volume of Terra Formars, we get some hints that the two main leaders back on Earth are giving contradictory information and directions to the team. And the story begins to get even more interesting when one of the roaches is seen to be in contact with one of these leaders on Earth. Overall, this is a fun, action-packed manga, but it doesn’t stand out as exceptional in this first volume, at least not compared to some other action-packed manga I’ve read, such as Monster.



  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.