Review of Pure by Julianna Baggott

Title: Pure
Series: Pure #1
Author: 
Julianna Baggott
Published: 
2 February 2012
Publisher: 
Headline
Genre: 
YA, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, science fiction
Source: 
review copy from Tammy at Women24.com
Rating: 
7/10

Ten years after the Detonations that destroyed America, survivors breathe the ash of a damaged world and bear the terrible deformities and mutations that the nuclear bombs have left them with. Pressia lives with her grandfather in the remains of a barbershop, clinging to faint memories of the Before. She finds herself going on the run from the OSR, a militant group that forcibly recruits all teenagers from the age of 16. Like most other survivors, Pressia wishes she could live inside the Dome, the clean, safe haven where a few were lucky enough to be sheltered during the Detonations. The people of the Dome are ‘Pure’, untainted by burns and mutations.

Bradwell doesn’t share this dream about the Dome. He is a rebel who knows the truth – that the Dome’s creators are the ones responsible for the Detonations; that they used the bombs to ‘cleanse’ the earth so that they could one day emerge to rule a rejuvenated Earth.

Inside the Dome, Partridge enjoys the privileges of being a Pure, but at the cost of his freedom. His world is clean but tightly controlled and closely monitored, and he is subjected to mandatory genetic modification. His cold, calculating father is the leader of the Dome, while his loving mother supposedly died a martyr, trying to help ‘the wretches’ outside get to safety when the bombs hit. But Partridge knows that he is being lied to, that the stories he has been told about his world are propaganda. When he finds reasons to believe that his mother is still alive, he escapes from the Dome to find her.

His journey collides with Pressia’s and Bradwell’s, forming an uneasy trio of teenagers who are reluctant to trust each other but have to forge some kind of alliance if they expect to survive all the monsters that come after them. They puzzle through the clues that will lead them to the truth, heading out on a path that will either lead to revolution or the triumph of tyranny.

 

Pure surprised me. It’s grotesque and brutal, and I mean this in a good way. There was a point when YA dystopias sprang up like weeds, and, as with the YA fad of romances between humans and sexy mythical creatures who looked like humans, I imagined that the resulting dystopias would be implausibly glossy, with only the bare minimum of thin dystopian features written in to allow the authors to cash in on the trend. YA dystopias, I thought, were probably just the latest settings for otherwise conventional action-adventure-romances.

Pure has action and adventure, but it’s gritty and tragic. At first it seems like the usual love triangle is forming, but in fact there’s no real romance. And unlike most YA novels, many of the characters are not just physically imperfect but physically deformed. The Detonations had horrific effects to the people who were caught in the explosions. All of them were fused to nearby objects, plants, animals, or other people. Pressia was holding a doll, and her hand is now a doll’s-head fist, a relatively minor deformity. Bradwell has birds fused to his back, their beaks digging into his flesh, their wings fluttering. There are ‘Dusts’ – humans who fused with the earth and live underground, rising up to drag humans and other creatures down with them. There are ‘Beasts’, who fused with animals. ‘Groupies’ are two or more humans fused together.

And those are the least disturbing of the examples. There is a group of mothers fused to the children they clutched when the bombs went off. Stunted by their mothers’ bodies, the children will never grow up. Some women limp along with children joined at the hip; others have babies forever attached to their arms.

One character, known as El Capitan, has his younger brother (who was brain damaged in the Detonations) fused to his back. Unable to ever part, El Capitan knows that eventually one of them will be unable to take it anymore and will kill the other, causing the death of both.

There is no hope that future generations will be born Pure; all the changes will be passed on. The bombs that were set off were not standard nuclear weapons but “a cocktail of bombs” (44) with “nanotechnology to help speed up the recovery of the earth – nanotechnology that promotes the self-assembly of molecules” (45) and apparently allows creatures and objects to bond genetically. I have no idea whether this is actually possible, but it makes enough sense to me for the purposes of the story. Pure describes a world of human made monstrous. With creatures like Dusts and Beasts, it’s fair to ask whether they’re human at all. Characters like Pressia have to deal with the fact that the objects fused to them have become a part of their flesh. For example, Pressia once tried to cut the doll’s head off her hand, only to find that it bled as if she’d slit her wrist. And maybe, she admits, that’s exactly what she wanted to do.

Partridge isn’t happy either, but for very different reasons. The Dome is clean and safe to the point that life in there is sterile. Everything is controlled and everyone is closely monitored. All boys are given mandatory genetic enhancements to improve them physically, mentally, and make them more submissive. Partridge’s brother Sedge killed himself when he could no longer handle life in the Dome, an act that is considered noble because it helps keep weaknesses out of the gene pool.

Heavy stuff for YA, and there’s quite a lot of it – accounts of the trauma experienced during the Detonations, the suffering of the fused, the brutal things the characters are forced to do to survive and achieve their goals. But I’m not complaining. I liked this about the novel; it had a satisfying weight to it and the grotesquery did not feel gratuitous. However, I will say that the plot and characters seemed to lack something. It’s a good book, but not all that compelling. I admired many of the details in the world and the writing, but somehow the whole was less impressive than I expected. The plot needed a greater sense of urgency, and as the story progressed the characters became less interesting than they’d been at first.

Still, it’s an impressive creation. Or at least the parts that you see in the novel are impressive. The worldbuildng falters when you consider the backstory and that bloody American bias that I can’t believe we still find in stories with a supposedly global scope. Before the Detonations, American society had already become a dystopia defined by “the convolutions of church and state” and a return to traditional gender divides. Church attendance was monitored. The privileged lived in compounds protected by armed guards. Women were expected to belong to the ‘Feminine Feminists’ group, which enforced misogynistic gender roles under the guise of liberation. The whole regime was known as ‘The Return to Civility’. Those who didn’t comply were quietly carted off to asylums. The Dome is a continuation of this, especially with its ugly religious longing for purity and perfection.

This is all good and well; in fact I’d like to read a prequel that shows how this society came about. I’m wondering, for example, what happened with all the non-Christians. But more questions arise when considering the Detonations. They were not organised by the military or the government, but by a small group of elite scientists, so how did they get access to so much sophisticated nuclear weaponry? Surely that doesn’t go unnoticed by the authorities. And then, did they just bomb America, or the entire world? The former sounds highly unlikely and the latter seems impossible. So what happened to everyone else? Are there other Domes?

There are characters who should have this information, but don’t reveal any of it (although there are other reveals). Pressia and Partridge have been kept in the dark, but I’d expect them to at least ask some of these questions. I’m getting tired of books where anything that happens outside America isn’t considered worth more than a sentence or two. I can accept that we’re just being told the story of what happens in the USA; what I can’t accept is the way the majority of the world is ignored.

I hold out the hope that the sequel, Fuse (due in February 2013), will offer explanations. I have my reservations about Pure, but they’re outweighed by my enthusiasm for its stronger aspects. It delivers far more than I expected from this genre, particularly in it brutal post-apocalyptic world. The writing is strong, with a few moments where you have to pause to consider what you just read. The YA market could do with more of this.

 

Buy a copy of Pure at The Book Depository

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage
Series: The Passage #1
Author: 
Justin Cronin
Published: 
First published 8 June 2012; this edition published 17 may 2011
Publisher: 
Ballantine Books
Genre: 
horror, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy
Source: 
eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 
4/10

The Passage is an excellent reminder for me to be wary of bestsellers. Some are just as wonderful as the hype suggests, but most end up being dull, conventional blather that is simply easy for a lot of people to like. If your idea of a really good book is something that surpasses the norm in terms of writing, characters, or ingenuity, then don’t read The Passage.

The plot is familiar. The military experiments with a virus that’s supposed to create supersoldiers, but creates monsters instead. The monsters escape and start killing people while infecting others. Soon, North America, and possibly the world, is overrun, with small groups of humans trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Humanity’s only hope lies in a unique test subject who got all the benefits of the virus and none of the human-devouring aggression.

Well thanks, but I’ve seen all the Resident Evil movies. They’re fantastically stupid, but it’s much more fun to watch Milla Jovovich kick zombie ass than slog through 800 pages of unnecessarily detailed, slow-paced pseudo-horror.

Like many readers and reviewers, I only enjoyed the first 250 pages, in which Cronin sets up the main plot (yes, it takes that long). Through a series of emails, we learn that a scientist named Lear to the jungles of Boliva, hoping to find the cure for all human ailments. He’s accompanied by soldiers and researchers, almost all of whom die horribly when attacked by vampire bats. However, the mission achieves its goal when Lear returns with a man infected with the virus they were looking for.

Thus begins Project Noah, so-named because Noah lived for over 900 years in the bible. The virus is supposed to make people similarly near-immortal, and because it’s a military initiative, the main, narrow-minded goal is to “weaponize” the human form, accompanied by a vision of “the American Way as something truly long-term. As in permanent”. To test the virus, twelve death-row inmates are recruited with the promise of immortality.

So we’ve got jingoistic hubris, twelve murderers who get eternal life instead of death, and a virus from crazed vampire bats. Obviously things will go horribly wrong. The test subjects are turned into sparkling bioluminescent vampires with skin like diamonds “so hard it made Kevlar look like pancake batter”. One of them also has psychic powers that he uses to manipulate the guards into letting them out, and thus begins the vampire apocalypse.

Unfortunately it takes almost a quarter of the novel for us to get that far, or even encounter a scene that you could actually call horror, because there are parallel plots telling the detailed stories of Wolgast, Carter, and Amy. Brad Wolgast is an FBI agent whose job it is to recruit the death-row inmates for Project NOAH. He and his partner Doyle head off to pick up the last of the inmates – Anthony Carter, a small, shy, and slightly retarded black man, who is actually innocent of killing the rich white woman whose lawn he used to mow.

After recruiting Carter, Wolgast and Doyle are sent to pick up (ie. kidnap) Amy, a six-year-old girl recently abandoned at a convent by her destitute mother. How Project NOAH found out about her or why exactly they want her is left to your imagination. Amy has been taken in by a nun with some sort of psychic power who just knows that their destinies are entwined. Amy herself has a special power, but we’re never told what it is. Wolgast and Doyle nab her, and although Wolgast tries to escape with her, she ends up at the NOAH base where she’s infected with the virus, shortly before the vampire apocalypse begins.

I enjoyed the novel up until this point. It’s very slow, and you get far more detail about the characters than you need, but it was interesting enough. It takes a long time for the main plot to get going, but with 800 pages and two sequels in the works, I figured Cronin could take his time. Then, to my dismay, the plot jumped forward 92 years and completely failed to ever be quite as interesting as the first part.

A tedious series of diary entries explains that a colony of survivors was established in California, forming a society that has lived there ever since. There are a lot of subplots involving families, friends and romantic attachments, as well as a lot of information about how the colony is run, but the gist of the story is that the machinery supplying the electricity is getting worn down and when the lights go out the vampires will come and everyone will die screaming. Amy eventually comes back into the story, having wandered alone for almost a century. She holds the key to ending the vampire apocalypse, and a group of young colonists embark on a journey to take her to Colorado, following a faint radio signal asking anyone who finds Amy to take her there.

It was a bit jarring to jump from one set of characters to another, with a completely different plot that’s even slower than the first. I also found that I didn’t care much about these new characters. Cronin gives us lots of details about their backgrounds and current situations, and yet most of them remain dull. I got very impatient waiting for Amy to come back into the story, but when she did I was disappointed. She barely speaks and is mostly passive, just like her six-year-old self in the first part. She’s a century-old woman in the body of a child, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she behaves. Amy is potentially the most interesting character, but she’s kept in the background and is unable to answer any pressing questions for either the reader or the new characters, who know nothing about how the vampire plague began. She’s supposed to be the “girl who saves the world”, but not because of any action she takes. Her power lies only in what she is or what she’s made to be, and it’s the other characters who must take action and manoeuvre her into position like an inanimate tool.

I wasn’t too impressed with the vampires either. They’re more like vampire zombies, because they become mindless bloodsuckers. The first vampires are known as The Twelve (which is also the title for the second book), while the rest are their descendants, a hoard known as The Many. None of them manage to be particularly scary. I was really hoping that Amy at least would be creepy, but she is consistently bland.

By the last quarter, I was getting very tired of the whole story, which started to feel increasingly random and chaotic, like a mad dash to the finish. Perhaps Cronin had been losing steam too. The worst part was the way the novel went from being light sci fi to some kind of spiritualist fantasy at the climax. For so long I’d been waiting patiently for proper explanations of how the virus worked, what made Amy special, and why the virus reacted differently to her. The novel has the opportunity to provide all of this information but gives none of it. We do find out what role Amy has to play in the vampire apocalypse, but it’s not a scientific explanation – it’s a vague, semi-Christian phenomenon with no connection to what we know about the virus. In fact, by this point in the novel, we frequently see science or sci fi falling away to be replaced by fantasy, spiritualism or general vagueness. The most annoying example is when an important ‘scientific’ character dies and allows a religious one to live so that we end up being given the latter character’s Christian interpretation of events instead of a detailed technical one. It’s extremely frustrating and totally unsatisfying. If Cronin is holding back all the interesting information for the sequels, then he’s doing this novel a huge disservice.

Why the hell is this so popular?  I kept asking myself this as I trudged on, and came up with a few guesses. It’s pretty easy to read, despite its length. With all the travelling the characters do, it functions as a kind of epic American novel, exploring the country’s landscape. The content focuses on domestic drama more than it does on horror or science, which I think makes it appealing to a wider audience. I dislike all the spiritual/religious stuff particularly since it doesn’t suit earlier parts of the novel, but I know I’m probably in the minority there and for some it probably makes the book more meaningful.

I have to admit that, for some stupid reason, I feel an urge to read The Twelve. I think my brain is still being manipulated by all the hype that surrounds The Passage. I better set it straight before I spend another week reading a boring novel that’s twice as long as it needs to be.

 

Buy The Passage at The Book Depository

September Round-up

I’m on holiday in South Africa again (yay!), which is my excuse for why I was rather quiet last week, and why I’ll remain quiet over the next two weeks, although I’ll try my best to keep reading.

I had a whopping nine eARCs of books that were published in September, but I only managed to read five of them and review four. On the bright side, I managed to finish an 800-page whopper that’s been on my tbr list since it was published in 2010. It wasn’t very good, but that’s life. At least I can say I read it.

But on with the round-up. Please forgive me for using multiple thumbnail images instead of the usual collage – I’m working on my netbook without a mouse, and it’s just too much of a schlep to work with the images. Anyway, I finally posted my review of The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle, a literary horror novel set in a mental institution in Queens, New York.

I reviewed the two debut novels from new YA published Strange Chemistry. They were ok, but not exactly memorable. Shift by Kim Curran is a sci fi novel about teenagers with the power to undo their decisions. There was plenty of action and wish fulfilment for teenage boys, but too many holes in the worldbuilding for me to ignore.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond was a better novel. It’s a mystery/romance based on a North American legend known as the Lost Colony. The relationship at the heart of the novel is sweet if a little implausble. There’s plenty of adventure, but the mystery and fantasy aspects of the plot were a let-down.

It’s been a while since I reviewed an indie novel, so I took on Painting by Numbers by Tom Gillespie. It’s a mystery/thriller about a man obsessed with finding a mathematical theory hidden in the details of an obscure Spanish Baroque painting. I liked the premise, and the author writes good conversations, but after a certain point the novel unravels and is ultimately unsatisfying.

The best novel I read in September – not to mention one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read – was the delicious John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk. It’s a lovely mix of food, history, mythology, romance, conflict and tragedy. Highly recommended, especially for foodies.

Sadly, the next book I finished was one of the worst I’ve ever read – Cry to Heaven  by Anne Rice. I read it for a reading challenge where each participant lists five novels they would take with them if trapped on a deserted island. You have to read one novel from each person’s list. Cry to Heaven was a dreadful choice. If I was stuck with it on a deserted island I’d use it for kindling or toilet paper. It’s a total soap opera about a bunch of boring assholes. Most of it is predictable and it’s filled with boring, angsty whining. Rice’s prose is a hideous shade of purple, and the many sex scenes are written with ridiculous euphemisms. I only finished the novel for the sake of the reading challenge and because I’d committed to a buddy read.

Then I finally finished The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth, which I’ve been reading slowly over the past few months. It’s described as “A circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language”, and it’s utterly delightful. It’s funny and odd, full of the weirdest trivia about words. If my boyfriend was ever in the same room with me while I read this, I’d constantly interrupt him with “Hey, did you know….”

Up next was The Passage by Justin Cronin, a post-apocalyptic horror novel featuring vampires. This is the novel that I’ve had on my tbr since it came out. It was very disappointing – a mostly boring, frustrating read that should have been cut down to 400 pages. Instead I had to slog through 800, and none of it was scary. I’ll post my review later this week.

My last review book for the month was Breed by Chase Novak, another item in my search for a horror novel that can actually scare me. I’d heard great things about Breed, a story of a couple who go to extreme measures to have children. Bits of it were unsettling, but it didn’t achieve the desired level of creepiness that I’m looking for. Nevertheless, it was a fairly good book. Review to follow.

I ended the month on a light note with Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. Not one of his best, but charming as always, and I do love the witches.

And now, to continue working on that reading/reviewing backlog… First up for October is the YA post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel Pure by Julianna Baggot.

 

Review of Seed by Rob Ziegler

Title: Seed
Author:  
Rob Ziegler
Published: 15 November 2011
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Genre: science fiction, biopunk, dystopia, post-apocalyptic
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGally
My Rating: 7/10

It’s the 22nd century. The world’s oil supplies have finally dried up, but humanity has done the damage and the climate has risen by a devastating 5⁰C. North America is a wasteland, with most of its people reduced to starving migrants wandering across the land in the constant search for food and water.

The only viable course of food is Sartori – a massive, sentient, bioengineered city made of living flesh and bone. Its inhabitants are all post-human, genetically engineered beings whose main purpose is to design, produce and grow seed – a climate-resistant seed whose crops are now America’s only means of survival.

Then Pihadassa, a Sartori Designer (geneticist), defects from the living city in order to play out her own plans for sustainable life. Among the migrants, Pihadassa becomes known by the rumour of ‘the Corn Mother’ – a woman who will save them all from starvation. To Brood, a Latino teenage orphan, it’s just a rumour. He and his austistic brother Pollo, along with Hondo, an old man, get by as small-time thieves and Brood has no interest, or faith, in a search for a different life. Nevertheless, circumstances put him on the path to the colony that the Corn Mother is supposedly establishing, where fresh food is freely available.

Also on the hunt for Pihadassa is Agent Sienna Doss, the soldier who never Fucks Up. The US government – or at least the remaining scraps of it – want to get the Designer under their control so she can create seed for them. The government resents the power and necessity of Sartori, especially since its only remaining function is to distribute seed around the nation – a function Sartori could easily perform on its own. It’s a government “afraid of its own obsolescence” and Pihadassa represents an opportunity for it to reclaim power.

In the meantime, within the flesh walls of Sartori, Pihadassa’s mate Sumedha suffers the pain of his partner’s absence, while continuing with a series of genetic experiments that will affect both Sartori and the future of the human population.

Brood, Doss and Sumedha’s stories slowly move toward each other in an interesting and relevant novel that depicts a painfully plausible environmental future, the possibilities of genetic engineering, and the many ethical conundrums that are inevitably raised.

This review has been a difficult one for me to write, because there’s a hell of a lot going here. I’ve outlined the structure of the plot, but in fact it takes a while for it all to get put into place. Much of the first half of text is devoted to world-building and getting to know the characters. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does slow the overall. The characters  themselves undergo a lot without moving the main plot forward all that much until the last third or so. For example, we spend a lot of time with Brood, who gives us a glimpse into what is now the life of the average American – endless travelling across a hot, dusty landscape, the constant threat of violence, and hunger that’s as much a part of life as breathing.

Doss on the other hand, enjoys a relatively privileged life as a government agent. She has a diet of “vat-grown chicken breast and weirdly perfect Sartori vegetables”, has well-made clothes and shoes, and is in good shape to do the many violent things the government requires of her. Normally I admire strong female characters, but I have to admit I didn’t particularly like Doss. She’s an archetypal American soldier – brash, gung-ho, and cold; patriotic but increasingly jaded. She’s not the type of character I generally have much interest in, and I felt no different here.

The most interesting character was Sumedha, Pihadassa’s mate, partly because he gives us a perspective on the best part of the novel – Sartori and all its related genetic creations. I’ve encountered other structures made of flesh in science fiction, but the scale of Sartori and its situation in a barren land makes it especially alien and amazing:

The city spread out below, an intermingled series of bending muscle towers and soft domes twined abruptly with the concrete, brick and plexi of the old city. Shadowy bone latticework showed through translucent skin. A thousand hearts beat oxygen and heat into a thousand buildings, pumped waste out onto the compost heaps along the northern fields. Far beneath Sumedha a group of landraces moved slowly on their hands and knees along a snake scale street. Their rough voices sang as their hands polished the scales with fur brushes. Sumedha closed his eyes and touched the wall, sure he could feel the city’s pleasure at the touch of its children’s brushes. A warm sensation spread through his body…Love. He opened his eyes and the helix [DNA] danced. Each building a different expression of its strange and brilliant will, yet part of a whole that fed sensation down lush nerve matrices to the center, here, to Satori tower, where Sumedha stood touching flesh, almost connected. Over it all stretched the dome, a mother’s womb shielding the city and its children from the mad seasonal swings of a climate knocked from its axis.

Sartori manages to be both grotesque and beautiful, depending on how you feel about its organic structure. People sleep cradled in flesh pods or amniotic sacs. Opening a ‘door’ involves a muscle contraction that parts flesh. Light comes in the soft glow of biolumes under the skin, and in some cases the colour changes to reflect the mood of a room’s inhabitant. Most of Sartori’s energy comes from photosynthesis, and the skin of the dome turns green and gurgles with sugar production in the hot sun. During winter it grows fur for warmth, and the rooms too have floors covered in soft fur.

Sartori’s inhabitants include Designers, advocates and landraces. The landraces are worker clones, designed with an instinct for labour. The advocates are perhaps the coolest creatures in the book, but also the most vicious. They’re designed for security purposes and although they look mostly human, they have the DNA of a variety of predators spliced into them. The advocates have a constant, barely controlled lust to kill things with their bare hands (their fingers are hard and sharp and can easily rip out throats).

Then there are the Designers, Sartori’s geneticists (responsible for creating seed, landraces and advocates) and general managers. Sumedha is one of these, and I appreciated the complexity of this very alien character. As a post-human creation with carefully designed instincts, outlooks and ways of communicating Sumehda was difficult to relate to but fascinating nevertheless. He and the other Designers have faces “so perfectly proportioned it made the rest of the world feel distorted”. They communicate not only through speech but through touch, smell, and their ability to ‘read’ DNA. They have an intensely sensual relationship to each other and to Sartori, to the extent that Sumedha experiences Pihadassa’s absence as much more than just an emotional loss. Their attitude to life in general is also one of deep appreciation and fascination, an attitude that’s an essential part of their design. The creator of Sartori insisted that if life on earth were to continue in the wake of all the environmental disasters humanity has caused, then human beings not only needed to change morally or ethically, but genetically.

While I admire these things about the Designers, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they also come across as very cruel. Although they value life deeply, individual lives mean little to them, particularly the lives of humans and the ‘lesser’ genetic creations, such as the landraces. You get the impression that Pihadassa and Sumedha often view humans as nothing more than a combination of DNA strands to be studied and if necessary, killed and dissected. Sumehda, for example, is running a series of experiments on a young girl he has genetically engineered. He does without compassion, ignoring her protests that what he does hurts her. At one point her amputates her arm (under anaesthetic, at least) as calmly as he would take her temperature. He’s also paying a group of gangsters to bring him migrants who are suffering from a disease called ‘ theTet’. He needs them for his experiments, and doesn’t bat an eyelid at the fact that these people are locked up in cages and live in filthy conditions.

This plays into the novel’s ongoing debate about genetic engineering and the use of a being like Sartori. Clearly, it presents wonderful possibilities, and might even be a necessity in an ecologically damaged world.  However, it is dangerous in the hands of someone as cold as Sumedha. Pihadassa offers a more viable alternative as she wants to return to a more natural existence in which “the mother shapes the helix, as she has always done” with only a little genetic management on her part. But it’s clear that Pihadassa is not exactly the loving ‘Corn Mother’ of the migrants’ rumours, so who then, should guide future developments? Of course the government wants to do that, but you know that’s just a struggle for power and has nothing to do with ethics.

Other issues come into play as well. Is it right to engineer beings like the landraces? They’re designed to enjoy manual labour, but are not acknowledged as individuals, as real people. The same question comes up with the advocates, who are nothing more than organic killing machines; they do not seem to want anything else but the chance to kill.

While I like the idea of a post-human future (it’s part of what makes me a sci fi fan), Seed cools my enthusiasm even as it ignites it, offering a sobering picture of the future. It’s a good book and an impressive debut that I appreciate for its ideas and the depiction of bioengineered life forms.On the downside there’s a large cast of characters, a complex plot and a lot of information about the world of the novel so reading can feel a bit of a chore at times. There’s a great deal of action and violence, but it doesn’t exactly transform this into a page-turner. However, the characters are refreshingly diverse, well-developed, and the world itself (Sartori in particular) is intriguing and relevant enough to keep me interested, if occasionally confused. Speculation about the future of human and animal life on our planet offers some much-needed food for thought regarding our lifestyles today, while revitalising the post-apocalyptic movement in fiction with some great ideas. If you’re interested in the recently defined biopunk genre or fiction that tackles issues of climate change, environmental sustainability and genetic modification, then I recommend you get a copy of Seed. 

Buy a copy of Seed at The Book Depository