Thursday, December 27, 2012
Seed, by Rob Ziegler, is a whirlwind of a tale. A grim, disturbing look at our potential future, it is filled with characters who confound the sensibilities when one attempts to determine who is good and who is evil.
Before I get into my review, let me go into how I discovered this book, which lies somewhat outside my normal reading habits.
At the end of October, 2011, I attended the World Fantasy Convention, in San Diego, California. It was my first (and so far only) ever writing and publishing conference, and I had the time of my life. I met Rob Ziegler, due to us having several friends in common, like Carolina Valdez Miller, and Simon Larter, among others, on Thursday of the convention, and didn't think much more of him than, "hey, here's a nice guy, who is clearly a writer, a publishing professional, or at least a fan."
Then, on Friday night, I attended the Night Shade Books party. Containing a bathtub full of beer brewed specifically for the night, which were based on books published by Night Shade, as well as a balcony mixologist, it was a blast of a shindig, and certainly left more room for breathing and plie-ing with Mercedes than the shoulder to shoulder Tor party downstairs. At the beginning of the Night Shade party, before it got too full, I discovered the dust jacket for the newest Night Shade release. It was Seed, by Rob Ziegler, and not only was the cover gorgeous, but it was blurbed by Paolo Bacigalupi, whose Ship Breaker I had enjoyed immensely earlier that year.
I didn't put the name to the face until someone re-introduced me to Rob, and I realized he was the guy I'd been hanging out with the day before.
So long story short, even though I don't often read adult Science Fiction (being a YA writer, I tend to read mostly books that are similar to the stories I write) I bought the book in the seller's pavilion the following day, but sadly never got around to getting it signed. I'll have to take care of that at some point.
So, now to my review.
This book is gritty, disturbing, and often even disgusting, in the most delicious kind of way. It takes place a couple hundred years in the future, after climate change and the collapse of society have left us at the mercy of the remnants of the bio-tech industry, known only as Satori. Part corporation, part bio-gargantuan monstrosity, Satori is a living city, a grotesque ala Tetsuo from the end of Akira, that produces the bio-engineered eponymous seed; the only crops that are hardy enough to survive in this twisted world. This entity, this character, this thing ... is the single key factor that sets this book apart from anything I have ever read. I don't want to go into too much detail, and give it all away, but this creature is so incredible, so disturbing, so raw, and so amazingly inventive, I was at once appalled, repulsed, and thrilled the moment I first discovered it on the page.
Of course, Satori, and her children, are not the only denizens of this novel. The rest of the characters may not be quite so daunting, but they are fascinating nonetheless. Brood, a migrant Latino refugee, his brother Pollo, and their adoptive father Hondo open the novel with plenty of excitement, but it's Agent Doss, and her so-called troops that carry the story through it's incredible climax.
The best thing, at least for me, about this book, is the moral ambiguity, and the disparate sense of tone. The sections that follow the protagonist, if you can call him that, are full of violence, evil, and the fatalistic finality of doing whatever it takes to survive. So the "good guy," like all of history's greatest characters, is so fully flawed and realistic that he feels nothing short of alive. By contrast, the sections that follow what can only be called the antagonist are filled with a tone of reverent grace, so much so that as a reader I could not help but feel a kind of kindred-ship for the plans of the being who ends up running Satori, for a time. He is only trying to protect the livelihood of his children, after all.
I know I'm being vague, and I don't want to say a whole lot more, but I would like to make one last point - possibly my favorite thing about this book is the ending. I was fully expecting to be left either furious or relieved by the two possible endings I foresaw, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a conclusion emerge that I never could have predicted.
This is Rob Ziegler's debut novel, so I'm looking forward to seeing more from him.
Seed is on sale at:
Barnes and Noble