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Semiosis

A Novel
Written by: Sue Burke
Length: 14 hrs and 46 mins
4 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In Semiosis, debut author Sue Burke's character-driven audiobook of first contact, human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance. 

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet's sentient species and prove that mammals are more than tools. 

Forced to land on a planet they aren't prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape - trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

©2018 Sue Burke (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!

I loved this book. It was exactly what I have been searching for! Interesting characters, great plot, suspenseful action.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lilyn G.
  • 2018-03-20

Weird. But good. But weird.

Semiosis was an odd book that evoked many different emotions. I started out loving the book because of the sheer imagination displayed, but was pretty sure at some points that I was going to end up hating it. However, my affection for the book would gain ground again just a few chapters later. I can’t say I outright loved the book, but I actively wanted to finish it – and that’s been difficult for me to do lately.

There are aspects of Semiosis that don’t make a lot of sense, but you can put them aside for the sake of the story. For example, at one point there’s a super small amount people on Pax. Assuming an equal distribution of males to females, and fertility for all, that’s still not really a firm ground for genetic diversity to avoid inbreeding and stuff. There were some balances put in place initially, but they’re done away with fairly early on. And then additional complications are brought into play. So, yeah, the fact that several generations down the road there’s no visible signs of issues there gives me a little bit of pause.

The time skips were a little bit weird because there was no real order to do them. It was like the author used them to move past the parts of the story that she didn’t know how to handle. A way of just writing the good parts, you know? It ended up working out in the end, but it was one of my least favorite aspects of Semiosis.

Sue Burke did do an amazing job crafting the main character of most of the book. They were completely unexpected, creepy at first, and we (my buddy reader and I) were positive that there was something fishy going on. (And not in the Shape of Water way.) Neither of us liked them for a good potion of the book. However, somewhere in the last 80 pages, having watched the character evolve, a certain fondness took hold.

In some ways, Semiosis felt like it was a bit of a riff on the Harry Harrison’s Deathworld novel. In fact, when I read some of the first praise for it, I thought “Haven’t these people read Deathworld? It’s not that original.” But though there are some basic similarities, Burke definitely developed Semiosis into her own story, and it really was completely unpredictable.

One of the things that I think will stay with me for a long time is something that the characters talk about early on. Human beings realizing that they couldn’t bring their environment with them. That they needed to find a place to fit in with the local environment, not force the local environment to adapt to them.

In a time where science fiction seems obsessed with interstellar wars and focuses on the knowns such as the asteroid belt and the rocky planets, to read a book like this is a sheer pleasure. It shows that there are still science fiction writers out there that are capable of cultivating nearly neglected ideas and growing them into a book you haven’t read a variation on five hundred times before. Yes, there’s been plenty of first contact novels, but there’s only been a few like this.

Overall, Semiosis is a strong showing from Sue Burke. The plot is solid, the pacing wobbles a bit but stays interesting, the world is captivating, and it ends absolutely perfectly. I hope that any forthcoming novels from her are just as creative and interesting. It’s worth checking this one out, y’all, if for no other reason than it’s a great change of pace.

As for the narration: I thought they did a solid job. It was an easy book to sink into at night.

32 of 33 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kimberly stewart
  • 2018-03-08

Blew my socks off

Any additional comments?

Old, jaded science fiction/speculative fiction/first contact consumer, here. It's hard to get me excited, but Semiosis was shockingly . . . excellent. The writing, the character development, the pace, the narration -- I'm serious, as big a snob as I am about most stuff coming out in the self-publishing age, this book is the best new sci-fi I've read in years. Like, ten years, maybe more.

The 'gift' this writer has is making the outrageously alien seem like a friend. The consistency in the science might not fool a botanist but I will never look at plants the same. You know that smell tomato bushes make when you prune them? It's their "Help!! Danger!" signal. That's all you need to know to find yourself ready to believe this book tells truth.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Matrin Zachs
  • 2018-02-09

Great tale of human survival.

Truly you are reading a great book when the end sucker punches you in the face and cause you wanted more. That's how I felt with this novel.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 2018-02-12

Great story, but jumps a lot and without warning

As a biologist, I really enjoyed this book. The story was well thought out and written. It was also very well performed.

I only gave 4 stars for story because I do wish the book had told more about many of the characters. You are introduced to several people from the different generations in order. After being introduced and telling a piece of the character's story, the story skips to the next (sometimes with large gaps in time). The earlier stories were just enough to captivate me and make me irritated when they jumped to the next generation and character without warning.

The ending was both interesting and satisfying, which I find to be quite rare.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CallmeJace
  • 2018-03-08

Incredible

This was one of the most refreshing takes on sci-fi I have ever heard. I usually favor robots and lasers over organics and self reflection, but this book defied expectations and gave me a truly amazing listen. Told from the perspective of generations of humans and one massive plant, Semiosis is a brilliant and thought provoking look at humanity and it’s coexistence with alien life, both animal and plant. I was gripped by all the conflicts and dangers our poor settlers encountered and always satisfied with the resolutions. I highly recommend this book for people looking for something new to discover, to find a fresh take on what life would be like on an alien world.

Not to mention the excellent voice acting that kept me engaged till the very end! 10/10 for me.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CCCii
  • 2018-03-18

Yes!

I thought I'd made a mistake at first, but it got good. So good. I've noticed a lot of my favorite books confuse me or annoy me at first, but then I fall in to them. This is like that. It's brilliantly creative, a great story, and different than the usual.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • mrsszende
  • 2018-03-10

Very Imaginative!

I really enjoyed this book because it was very imaginative and unpredictable. I liked the progression between generations of people. What I also thought was great was the use of science throughout the story.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 2018-02-25

Both Unique and Well-Written

So much sci-fi these days seems to follow a template. This one is different, and yet it's well-done. The characters, even the non-human, seem real and plausible. When the shock and surprises come, you think: yes, it had to happen that way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael G Kurilla
  • 2018-05-27

Alien intelligence can be a bit inscrutable

Sue Burke's Semosis is a tale of alien contact where the gulf between intelligent species is so great as to almost preclude frames of reference that allow the differences to be bridged. At the same time, the story unfolds as inter-generational conflicts arise due to successive cohorts differing substantially in their perspectives of the alien world. What began as a quest to establish a more harmonious, pacifist society takes a wrong turn when they end up on the wrong planet and must struggle for survival as they encounter semi-intelligent animal species as well as intelligent plants. In addition, they discover the planet had been previously colonized by another alien civilization that died away, while their descendants have now gone feral.

The major sci-fi themes are around alien contact and alien intelligence with planetary colonization under harsh conditions. The animals have mostly earth counterpart-like features, while the plants appear largely earth-like, but with unexplained consciousness and intelligence. There's a tendency to mimic human qualities such as greed and double-crossing, but overall, the fascination is with the gradual recognition of botanical intellect and the creative means of communication and interaction. The evolution across human generations is also a prominent feature that not only displays the changes over time, but also the inter-generational conflict created by distinct attitudes and perceptions.

The choice of two narrators was wise in order to highlight the passing of the torch from cohort to cohort. Both narrators exhibited a good range of character distinction as well pacing and tone. The portions from the plant's perspectives were a bit stilted, but passable, although the main botanical intelligence came off with a bit too "arm-chair philosopher" style.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Aerindel
  • 2018-03-02

Great book...no ending.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Sure, its an interesting book and well read.

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the ecosystem and its components, very imaginative.

What about Caitlin Davies and Daniel Thomas May ’s performance did you like?

Nothing memorable, which is generally a good thing.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many, but I won't spoil them.

Any additional comments?

This book had no real ending.....it just went on with more and more interesting things happening and then just came to an end with no real feeling of ending or resolution.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful