By Rob Ziegler
First Published: 2011
Cover Art by Cody Tilson
Review © 2012 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Eco-Punk, Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction
Seed is an imaginative new first novel by Rob Ziegler in the new science fiction sub-genre sometimes referred to as eco-punk or environmental science fiction. It takes place in a bleak future where climate change, depletion of resources, and genetic engineering has turned much of the United States into a dust bowl and has decimated the population. One all-powerful company, Satori, has a monopoly on the only hybrid seeds that can survive the harsh environment but there is not enough seed capable of surviving the extreme climate to provide an adequate food supply. With desperation ever increasing, it’s only a matter of time before desperate actions are taken.
Seed is made up of three narratives from widely differing perspectives. One narrative follows two young Hispanic brothers, Brood and Pollo, who are migrants in the Midwest. What used to be the bread basket of the US has become a wasteland populated mostly by migrants. The only city of size remaining is Denver because it is the headquarters of Satori, the source of all genetically modified seed that can survive the current climate extremes. Brood and Pollo live a desperate life searching for food and seed under the constant threat of starvation or worse.
A second narrative follows the two top genetic design engineers for Satori, Sumedha and Pihadassa. They’re clones who have been bioengineered to be better at genetic design than any normal human could be. They’ve been designed to be able to see DNA sequences directly and to have innate loyalty to their Fathers. Their tasks have been prioritized by the Fathers with the first priority to find a way to extend the lives of the Fathers. The second priority is to develop new crops that will maintain their monopoly while a much lower priority is to increase the world’s food supply. When Phihadassa does the impossible and goes rogue, Satori wants her brought back or eliminated.
The third narrative follows Doss who is a tough experienced female solder in a predominantly man’s occupation. She’s become known as one of the best of the elite Special Forces, a reputation she’s gained by not screwing up. Soon she’s on a mission to capture Pihadassa before Satari does.
Seed immerses the reader in a bleak dystopian world seen through the eyes of characters from completely different backgrounds that are destined to eventually meet with the future of humanity at stake. The world in Seed is not a gentle place. Violence is a normal part of life in all three narratives. Ziegler creates some very tense scenes and great action sequences, sometimes with extreme violence. However, some of the action scenes stretched credulity far beyond the breaking point even with the large advances in technology.
Seed almost demands comparisons with another recent ecological science fiction novel with a very similar premise, The Windup Girl by another first time novelist Paolo Bacigalupi. They both have their strengths but I rate The Windup Girl as a bit superior in most ways. It has more consistent pacing, more believable technology, and more believable action. Also, Seed is so dystopian that it becomes overly oppressive at times while The Windup Girl offers more glimmers of hope. On the other hand, if you really liked The Windup Girl, you will probably want to read Seed for another take on a similar future which has been shaped so strongly by bioengineering of the food supply. It’s exciting to find promising new authors in the science fiction field and I’m looking forward to see how the sophomore efforts from Ziegler and Bacigalupi stack up.