I have mixed feelings about Semiosis, which I’m not sure I’ve entirely worked out yet. So here goes.
Semiosis follows the settlers of Pax, a colony of (at first) humans, who have left Earth in search of a better life. As you can imagine from the name of the planet, they are planning to have a much more peaceful existence than Earth. As it’s a bit in the future, we get hints of deteriorating conditions on Earth. The one nice thing about it, is that they are inherently non-religious (there’s a small throw away line about it in the novel).
We first start with the original settlers, their immediate descendants and then some further generations. I still think Noumenon does this generational story better (and with a more interesting conceit of them all being clones) but it was still a solid story, full of interesting characters and problems to solve.
The one thing that I didn’t like, and still coming to grips with, is that someone gets raped. And the person being assaulted is so clinical about whole it’s happening that it seemed somewhat bizarre. I’m pretty sure the different generations would have been taught things like consent and what not. So it took me right out of the story. The other annoying thing is that while there are consequences because of that action, it could have been another action. There were other abhorrent acts that were spurring on a confrontation between one generation and another anyway, so it just seemed excessive and gendered. It was again, kind of pointless. A trumpet of this is a wrong thing but so was all other stuff happening. Anyway, I thought it was unnecessary.
But despite me being really fucked off by that incident, the book does redeem itself somewhat. The final main story on the novel is about reinvesting in the values of Pax (I don’t want to give it away because it’s a pretty big thing that happens) which I really enjoyed. There was a lot of interesting debates going on and a lot of coming to grips with things like trust and sentience. The last few generations had some really interesting things going on in the story, which were really well handled.
I think I would have like more on the latter generations than the earlier ones, it almost got more interesting the farther you got away from the original settlers. I wanted more by that point, but I suppose everything would have somewhat anti-climatic after the final action of the book.
The discussions around sentience were really interesting and basically about the ecology of the planet (which the settlers tried to live in harmony with). But all the characters were all well rounded, each person having a distinct role that made them easy to distinguish from one another. There were also a fair number of narrators that were women (at least half, I think), many holding the most ‘senior’ positions in Pax – Moderator. There was also a gradual expansion of the world, with new animals and plants that were mentioned. So it never felt confusing or overwhelming while the planet was discovered.
I dunno. It was a bit hard going at the beginning but it has a nice ending. A bit of a shrug from me.