Read by Nicola Barber
Length: 12 Hrs 45 Min
Genre: Science Fiction/Post Apocalyptic
Quick Thoughts:Seed is a highly stylized Post Apocalyptic novel that I think just went over my head. Perhaps all the pieces to the puzzle were there, I just couldn’t seem to find them, or get them to fit together right. Despite garnishing high praise from many respected sources, I never became engaged with the story or characters enough to actually enjoy my time listening to it.
I have always believed that consuming a book, whether reading it in electronic or print form, or having it read to you through an audiobook, or aloud by a loved one, is more than just being presented with a story, it is developing a relationship with the text. Sometimes, a book fails to please, not because it’s poorly written or a flawed story, but either something fails in the delivery process, or the relationship just isn’t right. Often, the reason a book doesn’t resonate is just as much the readers fault as the author. To put it plainly, sometimes I feel like a failure when I don’t like a book. I have become more attuned to other people’s opinions on book since becoming more active in the blogging community, and often I will hear about a book that everyone, including respected bloggers and critics, is raving about, and it’s a book that is within a genre, or subgenre I enjoy, yet when I read it, it just falls flat. Sometimes I understand why it happened, like with Daniel Wilson’s Robopocalyse, whose story structure, and the audiobook narration failed to resonate with me. Yet, there have been a few books recently that many have raved about, that I just couldn’t get into. I could never point to something within the book and say, "That was wrong. I didn’t like that." I just got to the point where I had no desire to keep on reading or listening to the tale. Some of these books are critic darlings, like Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, and others are books raved about by bloggers who I consider my "go to" people for book recommendations, like Low Town by Daniel Polanski. Both of these books were cases where I felt more like I failed the book, than the book failed me. These were books I just couldn’t figure out, or engage with and ended up not finishing. In 2012, I have yet to start an audiobook and not finish. I have had a splendid run of books, giving out more A grades this year than I did in almost all of 2011. But all streaks must come to an end, and for me, the streak ended with a book I was quite excited about, Seed by Rod Zeigler.
Now, first thing, I do not review books I don’t finish. So, since you are reading this, I did end up finishing Seed. I listened to the first 8 hours of the book, and realized, I had no desire to finish it. So, I stopped listening, and moved on. Then I finished a book Friday evening, and decided that maybe the weekend, where my listening is more scattered, would be a better time to attempt to complete the final 6 hours of the book. So, I strapped on the ear buds, and powered through it. Seed is everything I should like in book reading, a high concept Post Apocalyptic near future tale. With war and climate change wreaking havoc on the world’s economy, The United States government becomes dependent on a strange bioresearch company called Satori, who has developed a genetic strain of seeds that will grow in the changed environment. Yet, when one of the strange genetically engineered scientist decided to defect to the government, she goes missing, and a Secret Service agent named Sienna Doss is sent into a land full of migrants and roving gangs to find her. Seed is told from multiple points of views, including the missing scientist, her clone-mate/husband, the secret service agent sent to find her, and two migrant brothers trying to find a place in the changed world. For me, it felt like someone grabbed a handful of pieces from multiple puzzles, thrown them together, and we the reader were supposed to forced the pieces together into some sort of complete picture. Every time I felt I was starting to get somewhere in the story, I found something that just didn’t fit right, and no matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t get it to fall in with the rest of the tale. I most enjoyed the perspective of Doss, who finds the army base she is sent to in disarray, and she attempts to pull it together to help her complete her mission. Yet, this standard Post Apocalyptic military angle was broken up from the story, missing for large portions of the tale and never gathered enough steam to significantly affect my perception of the book. Instead, the focus is more on the strange Satori company whose weird science and genetic manipulations serves some strange purpose I could never really figure out. Seed is a highly stylized Post Apocalyptic novel that I think just went over my head. Perhaps all the pieces to the puzzle were there, I just couldn’t seem to find them, or get them to fit together right. Seed has been highly praised by critics, and made its way onto many end of 2011 "Best Of" lists. Yet, for me, I never became engaged enough to actually enjoy my time listening to it.
The narration of Seed was one of the more interesting aspects of the novel, in a sort of technical, out of the text manner. First off, to be clear, I thought Nicola Barber, for the most part, did a good job. In particular, I thought her male characterizations, particularly of the young Mexican brothers, and other gang members was superb. Yet, I also had a few issues. First off, there was one weird mispronunciation that had me tweeting and researching, instead of listening to the book. Barber pronounced the word "vitamin" with the first syllable rhyming with "bit." Now, I couldn’t figure any textual reason for this particular pronunciation, and after some tweets and research I discovered that it is a proper British pronunciation. Now, later on in the book, she did pronounce the word in the way I was used to, with a hard ‘I.’ I also discovered that Barber is a British voice over talent, who was using a American accent for this production. While her American accent was strong, beyond the Hispanic characters, she used no regional dialects. Characters from the North East sounded basically the same as characters from Texas. This wasn’t too distracting, outside of two characters discussions about their Texan upbringings but it failed to add flavor to the dialogue in a way that truly talented and prepared narrators excel at. Despite my issues, I though Barber did a relatively decent job with the story, and her performance was pleasant enough to keep me listening to a tale I really wasn’t enjoy all that much.
For another view of this novel check out the review by Justin at Staffer’s Book Review. Also, if you are a Speculative Fiction Fan, I recommend checking out his blog in detail.