Seed Seeker is the third book in Pamela Sargent’s Young Adult EARTHSEED trilogy (following Earthseed and Farseed), but you don’t necessarily need to read the previous two books to get up to speed — Sargent does a great job at catching the reader up without any info dumps. Seed Seeker fairly stands alone. Most of the characters are new, though Nuy, from Farseed, does make an appearance.
Seed Seeker is a rather dark novel wrapped in an exploration/adventure tale and is also filled with enough angst and hope to satisfy any series fan. The dynamics between the civilizations are interesting and complex. Advanced technology has been developed, but much of the world lives a medieval lifestyle and relies on manual labor, simple music made from hand carved flutes for entertainment and candles for light at night (unless they trade for something more advanced). This creates an interesting social schism. Sargent does a nice job of developing both societies so they have strengths and logical flaws. She plays heavily on perception as well and thus, when the characters realize not everything is as they expected (on both sides of this schism) some interesting dynamics between characters begin and relationships shift.
Sargent’s world is more interesting than her characters. Bian, who was one of the main characters, seemed very poorly developed. While I found her interesting, I never really felt like she was real. She seemed to lack a humanizing aspect that could have really made this book fantastic. And this is true, more or less, with many of the characters. While there is a decent sized cast in this book, there are only a few characters which ever seem to take the spotlight and it disappointed me that they weren’t more real. They all partook in interesting events and had lived interesting lives and had interesting histories but if you had changed Bian out for a guy named Sam, it wouldn’t have really impacted the story much.
Another thing that bothered me, which I’m not sure if I should mention or not, was the names. I have a feeling really odd names are Sargent’s trademark. While I realize that it can be important for authors, and readers, of new worlds, people and places to fill their books with unique names to give their world a more believable, well-rounded feel, there is a point where it gets to be a little too much. These names were just weird. I usually could care less about names and I think this might be the first time I’ve ever complained about a name in my life but man, did I have a hard time keeping them all straight. Plus, the names were so unisex and odd that I couldn’t even remember if, for example, Enli or Awan was a man or woman. The only real characters who had unique, but easy to follow names were characters that only appeared once or twice, like Mari. Can’t forget that one, or mistake it. Eventually I figured it out, but it did take some time and a bunch of flipping between pages to solidify the “okay, so Awan is a…” thoughts.
All in all, Seed Seeker was an odd balance for me. The dynamics were interesting; the whole idea of a sentient asteroid type thing colonizing planets and promising to come back and visit the Seeds it left behind was fascinating. Not only that, but I enjoyed how Sargent developed the societal schisms and how she handled many of the cultural divides which would inevitably take place over time. The ending was nicely done, a closer that will leave many series fans satisfied, though I wouldn’t be surprised if she touches on the “Seed” idea in other books/series in the future. While I did find the characterization to be the weakest part of the book, I think fans of Sargent’s previous work will be satisfied and well pleased.
Seed — (1983-2010) Publisher: Ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children — fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates — whom it has created from its genetic banks. To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them… but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test. And suddenly, instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers — and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race — themselves?