Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review of Seed by Rob Ziegler

Seed by Rob Ziegler.jpg

Review of Seed by Rob Ziegler
(No Spoilers)

Seed is a brilliantly crafted post-ecological apocalypse novel set in the 22nd century where the starving remnants of humanity are dependent on the Satori corporation, which produces the seeds that can withstand the harsh climate that has turned most of North America into a barren wasteland during the summer, and a freezing tundra during the winter. Most of the population has become seasonal migrants, moving from north to south and planting and harvesting crops as the weather allows before having to move on. Everyone, including the small and ineffective U.S. government based in New D.C. (the old D.C. is under water) is dependent upon Satori, who is much more than a corporation who specializes in genetically altered seeds. Satori is interested in genetic engineering and evolving life-forms much more hardy than the human race. Satori itself, based in the ruined city of Denver, is a massive bioengineered dome of fleshy walls and bone pillars, which hides many secrets, which I will not spoil here. The Satori biodome is the most fantastical element in this science fiction novel, and sheer originality of it gave me great respect for Zeigler as a writer, though his greatest strength appears to be writing memorable characters.

The book focuses on three storylines: a Mexican-American teenager nicknamed Brood (real name Carlos) who is a survivor in every sense of the word; Agent Doss, a six foot tall black woman who works for Sec Serv after a distinguished military career in Special Ops; and a matched pair of genetically altered post-humans, Sumedha and Pihadassa, who are the Designers of the seeds produced by the Satori corporation.


Brood’s storyline is the most bleak and poignant. He and his autistic little brother, Pollo, and their guardian, a grizzled old rogue, Hondo scrape and steal their way across the dustbowl of the Southwest trying not to get killed or starve along the way. Brood’s story is gut wrenching and pulls you inside the horrific world of ecological collapse, and survival of the fittest. I cared so much about what happened to him, and that is the mark of brilliant writing. Brood is a doting brother, a silent killer with a conscience, and young man in love with Rosa Lee, a beautiful Tewa Indian girl he dreams of starting a life with someday. Brood felt like such a real person, and I rooted for him along every step. I’m never going to forget him, and he epitomizes everything that is ruthless and beautiful in human nature.

Agent Doss is my other favorite character. She is tasked with several things in the book, and is trusted with the assignments because she has followed one simple rule for her entire twenty plus year career, first in the military, and then in the Sec Serv, Don’t Fu** Up. She has accomplished every mission for her country during conflicts with Iran, Russia, China—fighting the Chinese in Dubai, and several other places across the globe. She is the perfect soldier, an adrenaline junkie, and a fantastic leader. “Boss Momma,” is what the boys call her, and she inspires those around her to valiant feats of courage and sacrifice. I loved her hard nature and her internal monologues, which showed the many facets of her personality. I kept picturing one of the tough looking black female power forwards in the WNBA when I read her chapters. She was incredibly bad-ass, and I loved it when she wore the powered combat suit, a little like the Mobile Infantry suits in Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers, and brought the smack down on her opponents. Agent Doss is the leader you would want to follow into battle.

The third storyline is the most hard to fathom, and is quite alien, as it should be. We get to experience the evolved minds of the post-humans, Sumedha and Pihadassa. They are twins, male and female, a matched pair, practically perfect, created by Satori to be the Designers of the seeds and many other genetically altered life-forms, the so called “landraces,” humanoids with the DNA of various predators, or other animals mixed in to make them extremely good at whatever task they were bred for.

The two post-humans' storylines are the most difficult to understand, and are rife with clues about the endgame, but it is easy to be confused about what is going on in their minds, which are so much more complex than any human consciousness. Sumedha and Pihadassa can see the genetic code of anyone they meet, and have great mental powers. These are alien creatures, very far from the human point of view most of us readers are used to.

I found Sumedha’s and Pihadassa’s storyline very fascinating, but at times confusing, but the payoff in the end made it all worth it, and I think if I read the book again, I would get even more out of this thread, and have an even greater respect for Rob Ziegler’s writing skill.

The three threads seem unconnected at first, but Zeigler weaves Brood, Doss, and the twins together expertly, especially at the end. As a writer and editor myself, I analyze craft as I read, and found this book to be incredibly well done in all aspects. The characterization is top-notch, the world building vivid, and the writing style easy to read, simple, and yet powerful, and poignant. I was moved to tears, goose-bumps, laughter, horror, and reverence several times. It was an immersive experience and so entertaining.

The dialogue is the best example I’ve ever seen of how to write realistic dialogue. Most of it is short, punchy, profane (there is a lot of foul language in this book, some in English, and a lot in Spanish). If you don’t understand Spanish, you’ll be okay, but will not comprehend a few phrases here or there, but don’t worry. You can get most of it in context. No holds are barred in this novel, and with all the violence and sex I think Seed is most suitable for older teens and adults. It felt so realistic, and natural, I didn’t have any problem with it.

After reading Seed, I am once again reminded about why I’m so in love with books. I went on such an awesome journey and it made me think a lot more about the pitfalls of genetically engineered foods, (and life-forms), as well as the very real possibility of ecological collapse in the future.

I became obsessed with reading Seed. I could not wait to read more of it, and burned through it, finishing in a short span, two and half days, and when I was not reading, I was thinking about the book and the characters. The story has some excellent twists and is going to stick with me for a long time. I look forward to Zeigler’s next novel with much anticipation.

View it on Amazon.com

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of the Crimson Pact Series

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