Wow. Rob Ziegler’s Seed (2011) is a powerful, thought-provoking debut, beautifully written, unflinchingly cautionary SF. Set in the 22nd century, this multiple-protagonist narrative depicts a United States wracked by climate change, societal breakdown, and the rise of a bizarre, organic city called Satori – a living, breathing entity that produces and distributes the seed that keeps the migrant population of the US alive. The plot involves the disappearance of one of Satori’s genetic designers, an event that impacts and ultimately entangles the fates of three people. There’s Brood, a resourceful, tough-as-nails teenager who roams the American west in survivalist mode with his brother and adopted guardian. There’s Sienna Doss, a brutal soldier tasked with tracking and recovering the designer – a desperate power play by the faltering U.S. government to regain relevance in the Satori-dominated political landscape. And there’s Sumedha, the designer’s partner and a Satori insider, privy to the living city’s long-term plans. Each character carves a fierce path through an inventive, grim, gritty future, destined to intersect in a fiery confrontation near the ruins of Denver, Colorado.
Ziegler’s vision is vivid and harrowing, voice confident, writing engaging and assured. And science fictionally, Seed is potent, relevant stuff, facing the problems of tomorrow — and really, today — head on with brutal frankness and intensity. Which isn’t to say the book isn’t fun; with its amped-up Manga violence and its eye-popping imagery, it’s an entertaining, visceral read. But the message is serious, and effectively made. With the exception of an overindulgence, perhaps, in gore and shock value, I can find no complaint — and even that feels like quibbling with effective authorial strategy. By and large Seed is an astonishingly accomplished debut, hard-hitting science fiction of the first order.