Seed is a book with a lot of promise, but unfortunately, it fails to live up to all of it. Let...morePremise? Solid. World? Intriguing. Execution? Stumbles.
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.(less)
To begin, let me get this out of the way: I won a copy of The Son through a giveaway here on Goodreads. Despite that, this review has not been bought...moreTo begin, let me get this out of the way: I won a copy of The Son through a giveaway here on Goodreads. Despite that, this review has not been bought and paid for, nor is it in any way anyone's opinion but my own.
Well. That gets the nitty-gritty out of the way. So let's get down to business, shall we?
Welcome to The Son: historical fiction at its finest. A vibrant picture not only of characterization, but of the history and personification of the Lone Star state itself, this work is an engaging saga that carries across generations, and through them, unveils the cultures and people that helped to form the true uniqueness of the American south.
Our guides are four-fold: Colonel Eli McCullough, patriarch of the McCullough clan and the first male child born in the Republic of Texas; his son, Peter, in which morality finds a foothold; and Peter's granddaughter, Jeanne, whom expands the McCullough empire to new heights. No, that is not a mathematical error, by the way--there is a fourth character, but unveiling them would in turn prod too deeply into the plot for a review. Apologies.
This book is not your average Western. If you go in expecting that, you will be sadly disappointed. There is violence, tragedy, and unsettling portrayals of family--but it is captured in an authentically real voice and narrative; one will find cowboys, but they're not roaming the prairie with the easy heroism of "The Duke."
It also delivers what is, in truth, a captivating portrayal of the Comanche Indians, from the height of their dominion to the devastating about-face a flip of luck's coin can bring. The effect this tribe would have on the generations to come, and viewed through the eyes of Eli McCullough, a white man raised in this world, positively resonates through the soul of the book.
Each character has a unique voice, fraught with its own foibles and virtues; yet the book itself shines through Philipp Meyer's own voice, originally rendered to us in the equally powerful novel, American Rust. Here, it captures the untamed wild and brings it under modern inspection; he breathes emotion into history and shows why it is so important we should never let the past die. In some ways, it can come back to haunt you; yet, in others, the peril is so much greater for those that turn aside.
It can be jarring initially. If you go in without any foreknowledge of what you're getting into, the character shifts and settings might leave you a little off-balance--but once you settle in, you won't be able to put it down. There is power in the voice, humanity (in all its shades of grey) in the characters, beauty and terror in the setting, and a sweeping breadth of life in the cultures and landscape it covers. And the dialogue is none-too-shabby either--a fact that is paired with enough twists and turns to keep even the most suspicious fellow on their toes. (less)
I have indulged in the intricate weaving of character development that is the Rain Wilds Chronicles much as I have engaged all of Robin Hobb’s other w...moreI have indulged in the intricate weaving of character development that is the Rain Wilds Chronicles much as I have engaged all of Robin Hobb’s other works: from the beginning. Hobb is a master storyteller, but where she really shines is the molding of characters, pounding out personality with emotion and pulling them along in such a way that leaves us all not merely intrigued, but attached. Her heart is in it, and she wants our hearts to be in it as well—and one can feel it here in Blood of Dragons as surely as any other.
Let me begin by saying this is not a book of intense action. They tell me the devil’s in the details and Robin Hobb loves details. They pour out of her into a rich, beautifully developed world. Unfortunately, this also means a slower pace—but if you enjoy character-driven narrative and worldbuilding as much as I do, that won’t be the problem for you. And that said, this book is quicker than its predecessor, lacking that “middle” book syndrome that unfortunately seemed to plague it.
But first of all: welcome to Kelsingra! If you read the last book (and why are you reading this if you haven’t? Bad reader, bad!), this will pick up right where you left off, with our weary group of outcasts struggling to achieve that final dragon dream: flight. Of course, this leads into another hunt, as the dragons begin to crave a substance from the deepest of their memories: the mysterious Silver that was once the lifeblood of the city and its many, fancier properties. Meanwhile, with Chalcedean assassins on the loose and the bumbling, vindictive Hest still stalking about, danger has not yet passed.
Also: Elderling baby. And the continuation of the birdkeeper plot that’s started off chapters from the beginning.
Suffice to say, there’s still a lot of wrap up. The sheer wealth of characters the series has pulled in has guaranteed that. And in that regard, I will give Hobb this: she definitely wraps things up with a tidy bow. The conclusion to several of the character arcs were genuinely enjoyable—and for me, at least, so were the opening developments with Alise, which, let’s just say: it’s about time. I’m still not entirely sure why Hobb felt the need to toss in the part of Selden into the mix later in the game, but it does help with the coming together—and probably sets up potential for more adventures later (I.E. more series).
My genuine befuddlement, however, comes from the fact that as slow, laboriously paced as these books could sometimes get, the ending, the grand conclusion herein, felt so utterly rushed. Without committing any sort of spoiler death here, I’ll suffice to say it was startling to observe just how off-screen and minimalized the whole matter was, particularly when Hobb spends so much time building everything else up. While her primary focus is (and always has been) her characters, I think this particular short-change to the action was a touch off-putting.
That said, I will keep this review going to make one more point—the main point of the series itself, in all honesty: the Dragons. All along, I have found the development and characterization of the dragons the most unique and intriguing piece of these novels. From their own growth as outcasts and malformed “rejects,” as it were, to prideful longing, and the sometimes subtle ways more human characteristics have been leaking into their psyche. Each has their own personality, rather than falling back on the classic, “Dragons are mean!” or alternatively “All Dragons are good!” mindset. They come to us as a bizarre mirror of ourselves—like humans with a lot more weight and more than a few neat tricks up their sleeves.
But in the end, I have to say: I wish I could give this book a 3.5 in terms of stars. Rarely has a book so perfectly hit that note, I’d say, but tragically Goodreads tells me no. Forced to commit, I lean more toward the four, in that regard, for the rich story and sense of character to be found herein, even if things can drag their heels from time to time. These books take a certain brand of fantasy lover to truly fall in love with them, but for those that know and enjoy the style, it will not disappoint.(less)