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Semiosis (Semiosis Duology, #1)
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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > Semiosis -- -- Finished Reading **SPOILERS LIKELY!**

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message 1: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 980 comments If you've finished reading Semiosis by Sue Burke, this is the place to share your thoughts with the group.

Caution: There will likely be **SPOILERS** in this thread.

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 244 comments Stevland really grew on me!


message 3: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (last edited Jun 05, 2018 03:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kathi | 3497 comments Mod
aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Stevland really grew on me!



My review:
A wonderful tale of hope, fear, and resilience! Sue Burke’s novel tells the story of a group of colonists and their descendents on the planet they have named Pax. They must learn to live with each other as well as with other life forms which may or may not be native to Pax. The tale is fascinating, thought-provoking, and well-told.

My initial comments:
At first I was afraid the changing narrator POVs would be a problem, as well as the jumps in time & generations, making the book seem more like a collection of related short stories. But about halfway through, when the timeline tightens up, the story becomes easier to follow.

The colonists from earth had as much trouble with each other (in some ways) as with the sentient plants of Pax and with their “rival” colonists, the Glassmakers.

I loved that Stevland grew a humor root!

message 4: by Chris, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris (heroncfr) | 666 comments Mod
Some of my favorite science fiction books are those that describe an alien as something truly "other", those that push us to ask what it really means to be "civilized". With both Stevland and the glassmakers we have completely believable alien intelligences that choose to form a community with the human colonists, contrasted against equally believable enemies (other plants, the orphan glassmakers, the eagles) that have the rudiments of intelligence but either lack the empathy to collaborate or who choose to rebel as a conscious choice.

The first generation of colonists frustrated me. I could understand choosing to reject the city for themselves, but could not see how they would keep it from their children once the children had grown to adults, even going so far as to kill to keep the secret. Perhaps they were so invested in their own choices that they couldn't bear to consider an alternative.

While the colony was much better off partnering with Stevland, there are still troubling issues. Stevland has quite a bit of hubris, assuming that he along knows the best for everyone, even drugging them (for their own good, of course). I do think he grew (as a character :-) ) by the end of the story, but it's still somewhat troubling.

Best new alien life: fippocats!!!!

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 244 comments The first generation acted EXACTLY like the Communists of the Soviet Union. This is how REAL people have behaved in real life. They demanded a society of ideology over reality or facts.

message 6: by Chris, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris (heroncfr) | 666 comments Mod
That's tragic ...

Renata Riva | 20 comments I really enjoyed this book. The only thing I found not so convincing is the ability of Stevland to do more or else anything through its roots, circumventing the need for him to invent tools or machines. But I still think that "Semiosis" is great.

I also find it interesting that a book promoting the respects for all sentient life forms is having such a huge success.

Christine | 622 comments I enjoyed this book; not sure what to think about Stevland. He does refer to the humans as his animals, but I think he understands that if they don't work together, neither will prosper. We don't really know much about his history (he tries not to repeat the mistakes of his forebears).
I wish there was some explanation for the downfall o the Glassmakers; if they cold make glass and use it for buildings, why do we find them as poor nomads?

Random (rand0m1s) | 950 comments I am finally caught up. Took me most of the month.

That is a big question for me. Why did the Glassmakers leave the city to begin with. Why they degraded is explained in the book. Without Stevland's help, they became progressively more and more malnurished as the planets plant and animal food availability doesn't provide everything they need. And there is a lot of research out there that shows chronic malnutrition can cause issues more than just the obvious. I wonder how much the Glassmakers remember of who they had been.

Why, however, was never touched and I am very curious about it. Did they grow to mistrust Stevland and so leave? Were there other factors?

I actually spent a good portion of the book waiting for Stevland to be shown a villain, showing why the Glassmakers left and that would end up being the ultimate conflict of the book. I'm actually glad that didn't happen. I actually like stories where there is no bad guy or bad group whose purpose is to give conflict to the story. In reality, most conflict doesn't come about because one person or group is evil. It can also come from people who mean well, who act out of ignorance, fear, shame, embarrassment, and similar

As for the first generation, why they brought their idealism with them to Pax, they were people of Earth and they brought with them all of that baggage as well. No matter how idealistic or well intentioned, that baggage can be difficult to just throw away. I believe that is in part why they tried to hide the existence of the city. I suspect they feared it and what it would mean for their new planned society. And so they tried to hide its existence. If no one knows, they don't have to deal with it.

Semiosis has some weaknesses, but overall I feel it was well approached and from an angle we don't see we don't normally see in fiction.

message 10: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 980 comments Chris wrote: "Some of my favorite science fiction books are those that describe an alien as something truly "other", those that push us to ask what it really means to be "civilized". With both Stevland and the g..."

I am going to comment on this comment in Sue Burke's Q&A thread. Maybe her input will be fippocats!

message 11: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue Burke (sueburke) | 9 comments Thank you for your kind remarks! Yes, fippokats!

And yes, Stevland is full of hubris, and he’s not altogether mentally well, either. He grew up alone, which left him with deeply rooted (I can play that game, too) abandonment issues. Once he has suitable companions, the humans, he will do absolutely anything to keep them. He means to do the right thing, and he learns a lot over the course of the book, but his judgement is flawed. Beyond that, he can never quite accept the idea that humans -- or anything else -- is his equal. He is a troubling character, and I wouldn't fully trust him if he were real.

In very general terms, Stevland and the other plants don’t do anything that plants here on Earth can’t do, including using animals to do work for them. The Glassmakers are very loosely based on ants. We’re lucky that ants are small and plants are slow. For ecological reasons, we’re also lucky that there are a lot of both ants and plants.

As for why the Glassmakers left -- other people have asked, too. I thought I had answered that, but I just checked and a passage was cut from an earlier version of the novel because it seemed to be a repetition of something said elsewhere. I apparently erred because it was said nowhere else. At any rate, here’s the passage I cut. I think I’ll also post it on the novel’s web page,

This was in Chapter 7 in a section by Stevland:

“We have also learned why they left, according to their oral tradition. Their colony was failing, and because their genus is nomadic like moths or certain large crabs, they decided to return to the old ways in hopes that it would prove more helpful, but nomadic life did not improve survival since the problem was malnutrition and illness. Females proved especially vulnerable, perhaps due to the strain of childbirth, and the orphans grew ungovernable. Finally, after many decades of unceasing decline and in desperation, they decided to return to the city, only to find it occupied.

“I am sorry I was unable to provide better care when they lived here earlier. I will do so now, and I have learned what I must do to keep them in the city.”

(Note that he will do whatever he must to keep them -- possibly against their will. Abandonment issues at work.)

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