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Semiosis
by Sue Burke
Tor, $25.99, 333 pages
Published: February 2018

Pax is just a word.
How to make it real for all
On this brave new world?

A small colony arrives on an earth-like planet to begin the grand experiment of living according to principles of inclusion and peace. Right off, there are almost unsurmountable difficulties, and if peace is a principle of life, so, evidently, are conflict and war. The planet they strive to make their home is older than Earth; the flora and fauna have evolved superior survival mechanisms, including sentience in several species.

Six generations of difficulties and accomplishments are recorded by a narrator of that generation, the sole surviving biologist, who describes the losses they endured, their privations, and the compromise they must make to survive. Ultimately, there are four main crises: can they coexist symbiotically with the dominant species of plants? Can each generation overcome their human inclinations to abuse of power? Can their society include other sentient species? And finally, can they contact another species that previously established an advanced civilization? 

I became so engrossed in each narrator’s life and goals that I wanted more time with each one, even as I was eager to discover what happened thirty years later. Some of the speculative sciences, biological and social, are very well-presented; Burke clearly did her homework. My absolute favorite part is when the bamboo is frantically coordinating other plants to synthesize needed chemicals to defend the colony from an attack.

Original, epic, and hopeful, this is forward-thinking SF.  ~~! Chris Wozney

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