SEED is a book that takes a bit of time getting in to. The author has crafted a dark post-apocalyptic world where genetically manipulated foodstuffs - seed - is the most coveted of substance, and where government is subservient to massive corporations who control the creation of these superfoods.
The technology in SEED is not explained in detail early on, which means a reader is left guessing as to the exact nature of a specific technology - or even people created through such technology - but as you read on things become clearer and the novel turns from slightly frustrating to greatly rewarding. The book rewards those who stick with it, and its ending is epically magnificent and satisfying.
Those who like their hard sci-fi with liberal sprinklings of grit, violence, and gloom will definitely enjoy SEED.
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Seed is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin, and no more. Short, straightforward and crisply-written, Rob Ziegler does not add many new ideas to the biopunk genre but delivers a solid pulp thriller. It deals with the intertwined tales of Brood, a destitute orphan, Doss, a government agent, and Sumedha, one of the post-human 'Designers' responsible for genetically modifying crops to survive in Seed's exceedingly bleak post-apocalyptic world. Set in the new dustbowl of an American southwest ravaged by climate change and resource depletion, each of Seed's central trio of characters are - in their own ways - fighting to survive.
Brood is perhaps the most sympathetic character, one of millions of migrants ranging the wilderness in search of briefly stable micro-climates in which to raise crops. Doss, too, is well-written; an ageing veteran of numerous government ops, traumatised but driven to succeed, knowing that the moment she looses her usefulness to the corrupt regime in 'New DC' she will be out on her ear. Doss' chapters always entertain and do the most to drive the plot forwards; she also gets to play with the few high-tech toys remaining in Seed's apocalyptic world. Sumedha, by contrast, features rather too much post-human weirdness to be of much interest. He develops into a decent villain, but his early chapters are amongst Seed's least interesting. That said, all three principle characters get decent arcs, whilst adding their own flavour to the unfolding tale.
Running through Seed is a pitch-black thread of quiet despair. Brood lives hand-to-mouth, only ever having known a post-collapse world, only once does he express telling surprise at the fact that he needs to plan beyond the next meal.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Near Term SF in the Tradition of Windup Girl28 Oct. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Much like Night Shade flag bearer The Wind-Up Girl (Bacigalupi), Seed is a near term science fiction novel that centers around the impacts of climate change and over population on the world's environment. The Hugo Award winning Wind-Up Girl focused on Thailand, but hinted at the problems ongoing in America. In many ways Seed could be that story of America. That's not to say it's derivative of Bacigalupi, but there's certainly similarities in tone and texture to the world playing to the current fears that Earth is reaching 'critical mass'.
Seed is set at dawn of the 22nd century, the world has fallen apart and a new corporate power has emerged: Satori. More than just a corporation, Satori is an intelligent, living city in America's heartland. She manufactures climate-resistant seed to feed humanity, and bio-engineers her own perfected castes of post-humans. What remains of the United States government now exists solely to distribute Satori product.
When a Satori Designer goes rogue, Agent Sienna Doss is tasked with bringing her in to break Satori's stranglehold on seed production. In a race against genetically honed assassins, Doss's best chance at success lies in an unlikely alliance with a gang of thugs and Brood - orphan, scavenger and small-time thief scraping by on the fringes of the wasteland - whose young brother may be the key to everything.
What struck me most about Seed is the poignancy. Right away Ziegler jumps into Brood's nomadic life as he migrates from Mexico to the Mid-West with the imminent arrival of summer temperatures. With his special-needs brother, Brood lives just on the edge of survival. His imperative to protect crackles with emotion and his willingness to do anything to survive is heartbreaking. These threads continue into other parts of the story from the Satori lamenting the loss of their defective sibling to Agent Doss remembering her crippling childhood. Beyond the characters the world itself is bleak and desolate. Ziegler capably takes the small kindness of a drink of water and makes it a seminal moment of compassion.
Despite this being an 'American' novel Ziegler does a great job of integrating Hispanic culture into the pastoral fiber of the country. A pretty good amount of the dialogue is in Spanish often laced with Mexican slang. Elements of Hispanic culture are prevalent in the migrants and in many ways makes Seed not only a glimpse into the future of climate change and overpopulation, but a glimpse at the integration of culture on America's horizon. Juxtaposing this is the Satori which is so disturbingly self-interested and antiseptic as to be reminiscent of William Gibson's cyberpunk corporations.
My only real complaint stems from the lack of scientific underpinning to Satori. For a post-apocalyptic novel the science fiction felt very magical (not in the Arthur C. Clarke sense) in large part because Ziegler never takes the time to ground any of it in science. While he introduces the brains behind it all, they're never given the opportunity to expound upon how or why it all works. In that sense the novel 'reads' more like a fantasy than science fiction, something I believe is becoming a trend in the post-apocalypse sub-genre. Instead, Seed never lets up in its pace, keeping a constant tension throughout that eschews any need for exposition.
As a narrative, Seed is a multi-view point third person novel that I believe stands alone and should continue to do so. Interestingly, I realized none of what I liked about it had much do with the actual prose. I didn't find myself highlighting passages or even taking note of particularly nice turns of phrase. This isn't a negative. Rather than flowery descriptions or particularly evocative metaphors, Seed compelled me forward with... wait for it... a great story. And a great story told well.
Seed is Rob Ziegler's debut novel and another very good one from Night Shade's 2011 crop of new authors. Reading this review it might seem that this is a slow and morose novel. It's not at all. Woven in between scenes of migration and self-reflection is tons of action that culminates in a conclusion that's both explosive and cathartic. This is one you don't want to miss.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Satori in the Dust Bowl15 Nov. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
About a century from now, climate change has caused a new Dust Bowl in the Corn Belt, resulting in major famine across the United States. Most of the surviving population leads a nomadic existence, migrating across the ravaged landscape in search of habitable, arable land. Decades of war, resource depletion and population decline have left the government practically powerless. Gangs and warlords rule the land.
The only thing staving off full-blown starvation is Satori, a hive-like living city that produces genetically engineered drought-tolerant seed. Its population is a mix of transhuman Designers, Advocate warriors and "landrace" Laborers. When one of Satori's Designers leaves the fold and goes rogue, the desperate U.S. government sends the ex-military Secret Service Agent Sienna Doss to track her down.
Seed follows three separate but connected plots. Brood, Hondo and Pollo are starving migrants trying to make ends meet in the parched America heartland. Through them, the readers gets a look at what life's like for common people in this horrible, gang-dominated future. On the other end of the spectrum are Pihadassa, the Satori Designer who strikes out on her own, and her former partner Sumedha who remains in Satori. They can see and manipulate DNA helices, both of the gengineered seed Satori provides and of the people and clones around them. The third point of view comes from Sienna Doss, the no-nonsense agent tasked with tracking down the missing Designer. Seed smoothly switches back and forth between these three perspectives, and in the process paints a compelling picture of a ravaged country and of the forces that would control it.
What's interesting about Seed are the huge differences in tone between the three plots. The story of Brood, Hondo and Pollo is grim and violent. They lead desperate lives, navigating the land between gangs and desperate, nomadic families, scavenging to make ends meet. Their chapters have a post-apocalyptic, almost Mad Max-like tone. By contrast, the sections set in Satori have a futuristic, post-human flavor. The Satori Designers are eerie creatures, manipulating human beings like science experiments or breeding stock, helped by their drone-like landraces and protected by the terrifying, inhuman Advocates. And finally, the Sienna Doss chapters feel like solid military SF, with Sienna taking the lead as the complex, kick-ass heroine who moves heaven and earth to achieve her mission objective and recapture the rogue Designer.
The way Rob Ziegler manages to weave these three highly disparate stories into one cohesive narrative is impressive. He confidently writes in all three modes, as different as they are, and gradually brings the plots together into a spectacular resolution. It's hard enough to write a good post-apocalyptic story, or a transhuman/bioengineering one, or a military SF one, but to write all three and weave them together into one captivating plot is simply amazing--especially for a debut author.
The resulting novel is a real page-turner filled with interesting characters and pulse-raising action scenes. It offers both the grit of a post-apocalyptic survival story and the mystery of the Satori composite clones. The pace is full speed ahead right from the start and doesn't let up until the end, but Ziegler infuses enough character depth and genuine emotion into the story to make it much more than just another action-packed SF adventure.
Night Shade Books seems to have made it its mission to produce great, dark science fiction debuts on a regular basis--The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Necropolis by Michael Dempsey, God's War by Kameron Hurley and Soft Apocalypse by Will Macintosh, just to name the ones I've read in the last twelve months or so. To that list we can now add Rob Ziegler's excellent debut Seed, one of the best SF novels I've read so far this year.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Action-packed stroll through the American wasteland27 Aug. 2013
Seed is a book with a lot of promise, but unfortunately, it fails to live up to all of it. Let me begin by saying: don't mistake me. It's a good book, it's simply not a great one.
As a exercise in ideas and potential, it is absorbing, and there are a lot of directions it could have taken. As a stand-alone novel, I think it went in the right direction story-wise, but the problem in its execution was two-fold: poor editing and unfortunately shallow characters.
Seed is post-apocalyptic sci-fi centered in a world where climate change has run amok and brought about a second dust bowl. It's the 22nd century (so, first of all: hurray! We made it to the 22nd century!), and as the residents of America struggle through a perpetual migrant existence, a corporation has risen to the top of the food chain (literally). Satori manufactures climate-resistant seed to feed humanity, while doing predictably darker things behind the scenes.
The nomadic life and particularly the incorporation of many Hispanic and other multiracial characters and themes (characters and themes tragically skipped over in many fantasy and scifi works) lends a unique air to things that immediately piqued my interest. Mexican slang and a decent amount of the dialogue is in (pretty easy to figure out) Spanish. These characters also come with, what appears to be, a rich amount of background to draw from: a special-needs brother, traumatic family situations, military backgrounds, partner/love interests.
Unfortunately, while many of the characters seem to think "about" these things, we rarely get any depth to them. We get quick glimpses, but much of the writing style is just that--quick-paced, never seeming to want to dwell too long on any one particular point. In that regard, at least there's no "bog down," but we also sacrifice an emotional and sensory complexity that might have otherwise pulled us deeper into the depths of Ziegler's world.
If you want action, you will have plenty. That is one thing that is never sacrificed, and generally speaking, if there's going to be an action scene, there are going to be consequences. You will feel for the characters therein; largely because you may be about to lose some of those you quite liked. The character Doss is typically the star of these particular scenes, and while she could have been something more, unfortunately, her role largely is to be the "action star" of the book, while the character Brood gives us the more human angle of things, as well as experiences some actual growth.
The writer is obviously skilled, with a lot of ideas, but the editing is not great. I mean this in several ways. 1. While post-apocalyptic settings aren't necessarily grounded in the scientific, sci-fi has a strong tradition of bearing up that undertone, and particularly where we are getting into genetically modified crops, seemingly organic cities, and clones, we somehow weave through them all with very little explanation. There was no "grounding." 2. Furthermore, it's not uncommon to happen across things like "souls of their feet" and skin "pealing" off, grammatical and spelling errors, as well as a great many reused bits of language to describe certain happenings. A solid editor could've corrected many of these, and while taken individually one might say, "Things happen," the fact that there are so many really does add up over time.
In all, this book can be choppy at times and it's nothing that's going to knock your socks off, but for a couple days' entertainment, it's a fun and active stroll through the wasteland. It has its issues, but Seed is worth a read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Doesn't reach its potential4 Aug. 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
I was excited to read this book after I saw the ad for it in the back of another NSB publication. I love post-apocalyptic stories, and the idea of the US military and govt. being relegated solely to distribute artificially manufactured "seed" to a largely migrant public that relied on it as their only food source sounded like a very interesting basis for the story.
I was expecting some form of "giant corporation takes over the world after societal collapse" story, and it *is* there, but I wasn't expecting the extreme 'sci-fi' twist that corporation takes in the novel. Despite that, the idea, and the purpose behind it, are still imaginative, and interesting.
Unfortunately, creativity aside, the book was quite difficult to get through. Not "Fractal Prince" 'there's so much quantum and made up physics' difficult... difficult because it was dry, boring, and written in a rather choppy manner. In fact, a little physics - or even just description, fleshing out - would probably have been very welcome.
The story is told through three alternating perspectives: a migrant youth, an ex-military member, and one of the bioengineered servants of the seed producing entity. I did not find any of the characters overly compelling, and felt the author failed to create any reason for a reader to care about them or their goals. There's no character development what so ever, and all of the characters felt stale to me. I can't even say they were one-note characters; I just simply found myself not getting a good picture of why they were making the decisions they were, or why I should care.
Even the setting of the story is not fleshed out as much as it should be. You see glimpses of the state of the world, but never feel immersed in it. This also creates an issue where the characters feel like they exist in completely different stories (post-apocalypse, military, sci-fi factory) and they never meshed well for me even when the characters come together. It just feels like one character is making a cameo in another's story, and they don't feel organic to the situation. For example, you are told briefly (and in the backflap) that the US military only exists to distribute seed, at this point in time. But, you never really SEE that. It becomes obvious that a class system exists still, as not every character is a migrant but you never get more than glimpses of the state of the world. The books tells us there is still a President, at one point, and I found myself wondering "why? what exactly does this person do?" but you just never get that information.
A large part of the problem was the writing style. As I said before, it's choppy and sparce. That's the nicest thing I can say. I constantly felt like I was reading fragments of sentences. I don't mean to say I like reading overly purple prose, but this was so spare and disjointed at times it was slow reading, and I kept getting the impression I was skipping words or sentences, but upon rereading, they just weren't there.
I give the book three stars for some of the creativity, but the writing style, and uninteresting characters make this a book that is very hard for me to recommend. If you want a dystopian world with weird sci-fi, I would recommend picking up something like Hurley's "God's War" instead.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A bold and welcome edition to the rising tide of ecopunk27 Jan. 2012
Bradley P. Beaulieu
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I blurbed this book. Here's what I said about it:
"If The Windup Girl had been born in the American Southwest, and had had the genes of Akira spliced to it in utero, you'd have something like Seed, a gritty, sobering story about the fallout of climate change. When Seed hits it hits hard, but there are parts that are surprisingly tender. The writing is intricate and bright, the plot sings, and through fascinating extrapolation, Ziegler has created a world that feels foreign and familiar both. The bottom line? Seed is a bold and welcome edition to the rising tide of ecopunk."
Beyond this, what I can say is that Seed is a book that constantly challenges you. It's inventive and immersive. The world feels consistent and fascinating. I haven't gotten a feel from a book like this in a while. The last time I recall feeling this sort of wonder was when I'd read William Gibson for the first time.
For those that like their sci-fi with a harrowing plot and characters that live and breath, Give seed a try. You'll be glad you did.