semiosis-coverSemiosis by Sue Burke is a fictional science fiction novel based on what would happen when humans decides to colonize and start new life on a planet only to find strange plants inhabiting weird behaviors greeting them rather than the usual alien creatures most would have expected. This is the author’s debut novel and I think the premise of the story is very interesting. We’ve no doubt have all read or thought what it would be like for humans to start life on strange planets in the galaxy and I’m sure what appeals to most people is the theory of finding strange and different animal lifeforms. I’m going out on a limb here by saying that most of us probably wouldn’t have given plants a second thought when it comes to sentience lifeforms. It makes sense if you think about it as plants are everywhere on Earth and they require similar things when it comes to survival when compared to humans such as water, air and sunshine. If a planet one day is to be found that can host human lifeforms from Earth, would it be all that strange to find plants inhabiting that world as well? This point is what actually got me excited about this novel as I don’t think I’ve read or heard of anything like it before. However, it pains me to say that the execution of the story in Semiosis fell way under my expectations and even more sad, it almost made it to my ‘Unfinished’ category. It took me a while to finish this relatively short novel and to be quite honest, it actually lulled me to sleep during certain reading sessions!

One of my biggest gripes with Semiosis is the utter lack of any characters worth giving a hoot for. The timeline actually spans multiple generations beginning obviously with the first batch of humans to have arrived on the planet. I was extremely excited when I found this out because this gives the author the ability to fast forward time to give readers a sense of history. It may not have worked in every book or story but I felt it would have definitely worked here. Would the decisions and actions of the first generation of people you read in the beginning be viewed as brilliant or frowned upon in later generations? The fact that you wouldn’t know until later is what drives readers like me to move forward. The unfortunate part here is that I can’t point out any one character in any timeline that actually got me excited. It didn’t help in that the last chapter actually had one of the least memorable characters to play the lead role. I would have expected for the author to go out with a bang by doing something different.

Writing about what I think of the story line itself is also a bit disappointing. The potential was definitely there but as said earlier, I think the execution just fell flat. Just what would it be like for humans to have to co-exist with plants that can think on its own and can decide what is good and/or bad for human lifeforms? It’s an interesting take and to a certain degree, there wasn’t much for the author to work with in that she couldn’t just make the plant and trees rise up from the ground with roots for legs and start enslaving humans. The author also couldn’t really make the plants have a similar thought process like humans otherwise that wouldn’t be very fun to read. In the end, the best I can describe it as was like reading the thoughts of an A.I. robot but dumbed down a bit. The bad news is that during many parts of the story, it felt as if this story line took a back seat to a matter that more or less was less interesting and again, not very well executed. It honestly felt as if the author didn’t really know where to go with the story and so she had to do something to fill the void.

It definitely sounds like I’m being harsh on the author, especially as this is her debut novel but nonetheless, I have to write a unbiased review. There isn’t much positive things for me to write about. It started off just okay and the most exciting part that I can remember is the humans initial “contact” or “communication” with the plants during the later part of the story. She had a very interesting concept which counts for a lot in my opinion in this day and age where most authors just choose to write novels based on what is the most popular in order to generate the most amount of sales. I would definitely give her another shot if her second novel also contains an original idea such as Semiosis. I would want to see if she improves on the things I nagged about in this review. However, the second time around I wouldn’t hesitate to put her book in my ‘Unfinished’ category if nothing has changed.

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