Green Review: Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley (Orbit)

Title: Seeds of Earth
Author: Michael Cobley
Pages: 656
Genre: Science Fiction
Standalone/Series: Series – Humanity’s Fire
Release: Out 21st Jan 2010 in Paperback
Publisher: Orbit

Synopsis

The first intelligent race to encounter humanity is called the Swarm. They are merciless, relentless and unstoppable. With little chance of halting the savage invasion we send three ships from Earth in the hope of persevering humanity.

150 years later the Human colony on the planet Darien has established a new world for Humanity and forged a peaceful relationship with planet’s indigenous race, the scholarly Uvovo. But there are secrets buried beneath the surface of Darien’s forest moon. Secrets that are going to bring Darien to the attention of other galactic civilisations.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

I am seriously impressed with scale and scope of Seeds of Earth. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I had echoes of The Last Colony but it quickly took at turn and a voice of all its own.

After some unsettling historical episodes the Humans of Darien and the Uvavo have come to understanding which would make an interesting short story but not a novel and defiantly not a sequence.

And conflict there is. Darien is not the haven it first appears. Darien is in the middle of a conflict though one it only is now becomes aware of.

The problem with reviewing most novels is that their plots and storylines rely on having twists and turns. And to delve too deeply into what conflict there is and who with, would I think spoil several of the revelations that Cobley cleverly places. So I’m going to turn my attentions to what I enjoyed in the writing.

The first thing is that the story is told from multiple voice points leading to multiple threads most of the view points are from the good guys though are teasing glimpses into other relevant views like Legion in Chapter 3. And the Epilogue though you’ll wait until the end it’s a great cliff hanger for book 2, The Orphaned Worlds.

I can’t think of a view point that I didn’t enjoy though I was occasionally thrown when starting some chapters as Cobley is still learning the art of moving the story along by short-handing connecting events. And does sometimes resort to info dumping or making the reader do some mental jumps to catch up.

So I did find myself occasionally glazing over or rereading to fill in a few gaps. Those moments didn’t last long and each of the characters has an important part to play in this web of threads that the population of Darien find themselves in.

Everything is relevant and Cobley ends up doing a great job of keeping everything moving along. One of the threads does has some implausible escapes in it, they aren’t laughable, but they could feel more dangerous and edgy in places to make them more plausible.

It’s hard, I think, in science fiction to define and explore spiritually, somehow the surrounding of technology makes a mockery of most concepts of god and religion. But there is a strong spiritual vein here and it has a lot to do with technology and AI and where the lines blur and where you are on each side of the debate.

As with most good revelations of plot points the causes are usually right in front of you and I had a few ‘oh’ moments. That’s always pleasing. One disappointing thing has nothing to do with Cobley’s but his view of humanity. Well it’s more a sadness that the harmony that Darien enjoyed at the beginning couldn’t last but Cobley shows as a darker side to our nature. The way we haven’t really changed or learned gets scarier the more the story enfolds. A lot of political parallels to the here and now can be seen quite cleverly.

Summary

Space Opera is my favourite type of sci-fi as it has more emotional resonance and it’s easier to connect to the characters. Cobley has no sentimentality when it comes to his story. There are more than a few moments of thinking ‘he wouldn’t’  or ‘he can’t’ and then he does.

That’s more me being sentimental and wanting everyone to succeed and win but that isn’t realistic, is it? Life isn’t fair and things don’t happen in quite the way you expect.

Seeds of Earth is a bit rough around the edges but there is more than enough to keep you reading and needing to know more. A great first attempt.

Cobley has a strong confident voice with a intriguing and different tale to tell. I’m wondering what layers he’s going to peal back in The Orphaned Worlds.

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