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REVIEW: Seed – Michael Edelson

Seed - Michael Edelson

Genre: Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Fifty people go to sleep in their own beds and wake up in a compound in the middle of the jungle. Men and women from all walks of life with only one thing in common—none of them know where they are or how they got there. Alex is a paratrooper. Yael is a mathematician. Max is a law professor. They can’t leave— a lethal barrier surrounds the facility, but no one knows if it’s there to keep them in, or to keep something out. 

The compound is comfortable and provides for all of their needs. There’s a warehouse with DNA coded locks. Only Barbara, the doctor, can open a fully stocked operating room, and only Alex can get into an arms room with enough weapons to outfit an infantry platoon. There is enough food and other supplies to last for decades, but nothing to tell them who did this to them or why.

For Alex, it’s an intriguing mystery—anything is better than digging foxholes in the desert—but he and the others don’t realize that time is running out. On the other side of the barrier lies a horror beyond imagination, and the barrier is about to come down.

The Review

What a roller coaster ride this book was – one of those compelling reads that you just can’t put down until you read one more page and uncover one more piece of the mystery.

This book starts out straight-forward enough, in the Mojave Desert during a military training exercise. While the characters drew me in, the setting left me a little cold, as I’m not much of a military fiction reader (sci-fi or otherwise).

But then our protagonist soldier Alex wakes up in a strange place, with clothes made to fit him, a selection of weapons, and bare bones information about where he is or why, and we’re off and running.

He finds himself with his own private cabana, stranded on a beach with 149 others from all walks of life who seem to have been thrown together for no reason and given no information about what’s happening out in the wider world. Throw in some high-tech whiz-bang stuff – a fusion generator and a mysterious invisible barrier that makes anyone who tries to pass through it deathly nauseous – and we have the makings of a hi-tech whodunit.

The mystery deepens when the unwitting colonists are allowed to go outside for the first time – and find the human world has literally collapsed down to the studs, with almost everyone who used to live there gone.

Part Lost and part Lord of the FliesSeed is as much a drama of human interaction as it is a sci-fi tale. The characters are well-drawn, especially Alex and his would-be love interest Yael, and so are the lines between good and evil within the colony.

Edelson’s pacing here, after the story shifts into gear, is great, as he feeds us bits of information in each chapter that start to fill in the picture of what happened in the outside world, and how and why the colonists were brought together.

I correctly guessed the central part of the mystery about two-thirds through, but Edelson still managed to surprise me with the details.

Alex is a likeable narrator, strong but yet uncertain in a way that makes him appealingly vulnerable, even if he is a little on the invulnerable side physically. But I suspended my disbelief about this because he was the hero, after all, and I wanted to see him succeed.

I also loved the setting, a place I won’t name in the interests of not giving spoilers, but with which I am very familiar. That added to my enjoyment of the story.

Kudos to Edelson for writing a compelling sci-fi mystery that took the “stranded on the island” trope and breathed fresh new life into it. Despite the apocalyptic quality of the story, it still manages to be hopeful, something I prize in my fiction these days, and the ending was both suitably heroic and unexpectedly reflective (in a really good way), which shifts the crystal-clear good/evil dynamic into a much more gray-shaded place. Wisely, I think, given the gravity of what happened.

My advice? Don’t pick up this book. Not until you have a good three or four hours to read it all the way through. It will hook you in, and you won’t want to put it down.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.

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