From the 1st until the 24th of December, we'll present you a reading tip from our holidays newsletter on this blog - and another reading tip, in German, on our website!
Marc says: A small group of people flee from violence and persecution on Earth. Their spaceship lands on an alien planet and they try to build a settlement.
If you took all the books with this premise from the Otherland shelves and put them on top of each other, you'd have a stack of books higher than any decent Christmas tree (and you'd best be careful around it, because toppling that stack could probably kill you). Semiosis, while taking the same premise, is quite different from all of these books. To begin with there’s heavy emphasis on the ecological and social problems the colony faces. The settlers are not in good shape (due to a series of mishaps while landing on the new planet) and they soon realise that they must adapt to the flora they find inhabiting their new home, rather than the other way around. There emerges a rich web of personal and practical interdependencies, and the characters act and react quite differently from the usual conquering heroes we encounter in our space colonisation sagas.
Scope and structure of the novel are unusual too. It is composed of seven chapters, each told from the perspective of a member of a subsequent generation of settlers (another point of view enters later too). This may be too disjointed for some readers, because we encounter a fresh set of characters with each chaper, but did not trouble me too much. The characters are all interesting, and the chapters are interwoven enough with one another (and the overall story arc) that Semiosis did feel like a novel, not a short story collection. Yes, it could have been twice as long, easily, but Burke does not subject us to the usual genre vicissitudes of lengthy exposition or overexplanation, the story is told, it is over, done.
The book also has some wonderfully fresh takes on questions and problems that the science fiction genre has been concerned with for decades - the negotiation of power and responsibility being a noteworthy and prevalent one. It must also be said that, while the story works well enough as a stand-alone, many seeds sown in this novel fully flower in the sequel Interference (out since October), which is focused on a much shorter period of time and concludes the story in a very satisfying way.
published by tor, available for 14,50 Euros at the Otherland.