June 8, 2012

Review: Earthseed

Book Cover Book One of the Seed Trilogy
By Pamela Sargent
Available now from Tor Teen (Macmillan)
Review copy

I mentioned in my LOSERS IN SPACE review that I'd already started reading two books I selected for the 48 Hour Book Challenge.  EARTHSEED is the second of those two books.  I think I've done it an unkindness by reading it after the brilliant LOSERS IN SPACE.

EARTHSEED was originally published in 1983 to great acclaim.  Paramount Pictures recently optioned the novel, causing Tor to dust off the Seed trilogy and send it back into the world.  I can see what made EARTHSEED a YA sci-fi classic, but it's kind of dated.

EARTHSEED is the story of a group of kids on a sentient Ship who have been raised to colonize a new planet.  They've spent their entire lives relying on Ship, but now it is time for them to learn how to live on their own.  Some aspects of EARTHSEED feel contemporary.  Zoheret and her friends represent almost every nation of the world in order to bring the whole of human culture to the stars.

But the success of Harry Potter did so much for children's and young adult literature.  It convinced publishers to take chances on longer, more complex works.  The characterization in EARTHSEED reads more like a middle grade novel than a young adult one.  The bad guys, in particular, are disappointing.  They're mustache twirlers with the barest hint of a reason for their villainy.

The plot contains lots of exciting moments - battles in the dark, desperate rescues, everything that goes with starting a new civilization from scratch.  There are plenty of twists to keep things moving, although one of the twists comes out of nowhere.  As a long-time science fiction fan, I expected Ship to be keeping secrets.  But it turns out Ship knows far less than Zoheret thinks it does.

As I said, I can see why EARTHSEED is a classic.  You want to know what will happen next.  And Zoheret is a terrific heroine, with a nice balance of proactivity and caution.  I think there's still an audience for EARTHSEED.  Fans of Beth Revis's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, in particular, might be interested in one of its predecessors.

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