If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if we actually let Monsanto take over the world, you know, the way we kind of are… Well, you might want to pick up Seed by Rob Ziegler.
Seed is a tightly woven story set in the not so distant future of the late 21st century. A future so close that I could still trace the path that got us there, could still see the remnants of the lives we are all choosing, could see my own tough ass girls trying to scrabble through the dust and eek a life out of the ruin and rubble. It is true futuristic sci-fi without the cheat of sticking humanity on a fresh planet. Oh no, in Seed we are forced to live with the results of our heinous fuckery.
The world has reached the tipping point of global climate change and gone over the edge. While there are hints that over in Europe and a few other places there are still semi-functional governments trying to hold on to what’s left of civilization, here in America we have done what we do best and privatized. A mega-corp called Satori, founded by a former CEO of Monsanto, now runs the nation. But Satori isn’t just any corporation, it’s a seed corp. Producing all of the drought resistant and weather resistant seed that the people of America need in order to survive. Of course, as a private corporation, Satori’s interest isn’t really the betterment of the human race, thus the kill codes put into every seed to make sure that no plant produces viable seed of its own.
Seed follows three stories, showing us multiple facets of this dusty, dry new world. There is the story of Brood and his brother Pollo, who’s not quite right in the head and just might have the dreaded Tet. Tough migrant kids trained to fight, steal or kill for a handful of precious Satori seed. They’re just looking for enough to survive another year in the blighted southwest, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it, and keep it.
Then there is Agent Doss, a tough ass chick, the government’s agent of last resort, a master of destructive violence that almost always hits the right target, along with a few others that were in the way. She follows orders and keeps her people in line, unless you cross her. And then, watch out, because you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of this bitch.
Last we get to meet Satori itself, more than a corporation, it’s also a living city, built on the ruins of Old Denver. We meet Satori through its “Designers”, genetically designed humanoids with the ability to see into any living thing’s DNA. Responsible for creating the seed that keeps the nation afloat, as well as in permanent bondage, the fate of the nation rests with Satori’s Designers.
When one of the Designers defects, Agent Doss is pulled in to locate her and bring her in. The US government, or what’s left of it, wants her for its own. They know she’s their last hope of keeping power now that they’ve given it all to Satori and been made redundant.
When Las Chupes, the militant gang running the southwest, take Brood’s brother Pollo to sell him to Satori, Brood knows he has to find a way to get inside the living city and get his brother out.
The three stories converge on Old Denver as Satori fights for the future of life as the Designers see it, and Agent Doss and Brood fight for the last remnants of the lives they know.
In all the many books I read each year, it’s rare that I read one that pulls me in so completely, sells me so totally and convinces me so perfectly.
I’m a skeptic at heart, and as much as I love a good book and especially a good sci-fi or fantasy, it takes a lot of skill to bring me along, because I don’t want to have to take a giant leap of faith in order to enjoy the story, and I don’t want to be battered into accepting the world either. I want to be brought in slowly and sweetly, wrapped up in the world completely until it cocoons me and I have no choice but to live it.
Rob Ziegler has done that and more. When I first met his Designers I didn’t want to believe, I didn’t want to go with them into their living city, it seemed too unreal. After all we are talking about a future so near that my children might touch it. But Rob took me by the hand and led me in slowly, one delicate step at a time, until I was able to look up and realize that I did believe. I saw, and felt, and understood Satori. It was real.
The dusty, dry, post apocalyptic world of Brood, Pollo and Doss was an easier buy-in. After all, I live here in the dry Colorado desert. I know first hand how cold these winters get, how hot the summers grow. A few more degrees either direction is both completely fathomable, and entirely terrifying.
While Seed is, at least on the surface, a dark and thoughtful read, there is also light. There is hope. Indeed, if there is one outstanding message, one outstanding theme, feeling, truth within the pages of Seed it is that even in man’s darkest hours, there will still be hope, and we will rise to the occasion to right our own wrongs. Even if it takes us a few generations to see them clearly.
This is not Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. (Which someone once got me for Christmas in what I can only assume was a desperate bid to get me to off myself before the new year.) Nor is it Christopher Moore’s Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (A fantastically funny book, right up until Chris takes us all off the cliff into acidville with him without any warning or preamble.) Seed walks a solid line between the darkness of McCarthy and the acid trip of Moore. Through it all, Rob makes us believe, and somehow gets us to root for all the sides, even as they battle amongst and against each other to determine the fate of our world.
If you’re looking for the perfect book to buy your ranting enviro-friends, or something to gently sway your Hummer2 owning, anti EPA pals – Seed is the perfect holiday gift. While you’re at it, best pick up a copy for yourself.