September 23, 2018

Review: Semiosis

Semiosis Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is definitely a case of the concept being better than the execution. There are some chewy, crunchy hard SF ideas here--humans colonizing a planet with sentient plants! Plant and plant/human communication! Philosophical discussions about a society based on Pacifism and various betrayals of the colony's governing philosophy along the way!--but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

For me, the reason for this is that I simply couldn't relate to the characters. This doesn't feel like a true novel, but rather a strung-together series of stories, each with a different narrator, covering the first 107 years of the colony's history. There is minimal development to most of these people, the lone exception being Stevland, the intelligent bamboo who saves and eventually becomes a member of the colony. Stevland is more interesting than all the humans combined, because it is such a morally gray character. At first it seems selfish and manipulative, rescuing the humans strictly to further its own cognitive development (it has a creepy vampirish habit of dissolving humans' bodies and ingesting their blood and bacteria as nutrients after their deaths, which leads to it becoming smarter). But as time goes on, it learns more about the humans and their Pacifist philosophy. There are several interesting discussions between Stevland and various colony members along these lines. Unfortunately, this is abandoned in favor of a more straightforward thriller-ish plot involving the Glassmakers, another sentient race that once co-existed with Stevland and built an advanced city the human colony moves to.

With the introduction of the Glassmakers, the book kind of sputters to a halt. The battle scenes between the humans and Glassmakers simply aren't enough to hold my interest. I guess the best I can say about this book is that it is intermittently interesting hard SF, but it doesn't follow through, and it doesn't really have characters I could care about. So for this one, my socks will remain firmly rooted (heh) to my feet.

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