Book Review: Seed

Seed by Rob ZieglerPremise? Solid. World? Intriguing. Execution? Stumbles.

Seed, by Rob Ziegler, 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.

Taken to the stars? 3/5

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