Semiosis Author: Sue Burke Publisher: Tor Books, February 6, 2018 Format: Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages List Price: US$25.99 (print); US$13.99 (eBook) ISBN: 9780765391353 (print); 9780765391377 (eBook)
Human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance in Semiosis, a character driven science fiction novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke.
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Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they’ll have to survive on the one they found. They don’t realize another life form watches...and waits...
Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet's sentient species and prove that humans are more than tools.
Its hard to decide whether the first colonists from Earth on a planet far far away were brave or foolish. Only the rich can survive on earth and a group of adventurers decide to take their chances to establish a colony on another planet. Crash landing on a different planet they find landscape that's lush and where the sentient plants produce delicious fruits...until one day they don't. One day they turned and started to poison the colonists. Only a few survive and Burke tells their story. The story of the original colonists and the following generations trying to survive among planets that are beautiful and deadly in equal measure. Things change when the colonists discover they share the planet with another alien species. The fragile balance of the ecosystem is in jeopardy and it's the plants who are really calling the shots.
The story of the colonists on Pax is told through POV chapters which span five generations. Each new generation struggles to survive alongside the sentient plants that hold their very existence amongst their green leaves, twisted roots and razor sharp thorns. The story really starts to take a turn when two things happen. First, the colonists discover they share the planet with another alien species who may or may not be friendly. The second big twist occurs when one of the plants - a colourful bamboo - starts to communicate with them, warning them of dangers and enlisting other plants to help them survive. The bamboo even has its own POV chapters and this is where the story gives us a mini botany lesson. Through these chapters it is clear that the colonists are not the dominate species on the planet.
I think that the concept of Burke's story is very interesting. Sentient plants who treat humans as slaves is new and fresh. However, I found that the story dragged, particularly in the middle. I didn't find the human characters that engaging and therefore, it was a bit difficult to be that invested in their fate. In fact, it was Svetland (the bamboo) who I thought that was most well developed and interesting. As a debut this demonstrates that Burke has an amazing imagination but a little more attention developing engaging characters would have moved this book from the 'ok' category to the 'awesome' category for me.