Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Seeds Of Earth Seeds Of Earth
by Michael Colby

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Alan Robson
Jacqui Smith
Simon Litten

This novel is the first of a space opera trilogy. The scene is set in an introduction which explains how the solar system was invaded by the Swarm, a militaristic and utterly ruthless race. However the Earth manages to construct and launch three starships packed with refugees who escape from the carnage.

The novel itself is set many years after these events and concerns itself with what happens to these starships. The galaxy, it seems, is crawling with life and conflict as the various societies vie for power with each other. The starship crews find themselves caught up in this complex power play, sometimes as victims, sometimes as wheelers and dealers.

Space operas are ten a penny these days. After years of neglect, they have become fashionable again. There was a time when it seemed that the writers of the 1930s and 1940s had rung all the possible changes on the theme -- the genre is very self-limiting; after all, how much can you say about galaxy spanning organisations before you descend into cliche? Parodies such as Harry Harrison's Star Smashers Of The Galaxy Rangers also suggested quite strongly that there was nothing new to say. Nevertheless the genre has enjoyed a recent revival and writers such as Peter Hamilton and Alistair Reynolds have managed to breath new life into it.

Unfortunately, Michael Colby's Seeds Of Earth exhibits all of the faults of the genre and has few of its virtues. His galaxy spanning aliens are all too recognisably human in their motives and ideas. The intergalactic political machinations are nothing we haven't seen before. Indeed, if you stripped the aliens of their strange shapes and corrugated foreheads, called the spaceships aeroplanes and the super-weapons guns, the novel could be pretty much any contemporary political thriller set on Earth.

In order to transcend the essential dullness of the genre, a space opera needs to exhibit genuine insight and imagination. Seeds Of Earth has neither of these. The novel is tedious, unimaginative and ploddingly plotted.

-Alan Robson

I was surprised to find that this is Michael Cobley's fourth book, and not his first, because it definitely lacks a certain polish. No shortage of ideas though.

The basic concept is that the Earth is attacked by Bugs in around 2126, and a trio of spaceships are sent out to find their way in the Galaxy, before a bunch of Aliens - tall, handsome and humanoid - get to bail us out. These aliens are not as trustworthy as they may seem, and in particular they're showing an unhealthy interest in one of the human colonies, hidden deep in the Huvuun Deepzone, which already has native aliens of its own, and is coincidentally where the remnants of an ancient civilisation are being dug up.

There are lots of bizarre alien species, brave humans, and Lord knows what going on here. Bits of dead universes lurking somewhere in the lower levels of hyperspace, anyone? I really don't know what to else say about this one, except.. Interesting.

-Jacqui Smith

Michael Cobley has managed to surprise me with his new novel Seeds of Earth – he has produced a star-spanning space opera that I want to read. I will admit to being a bit of a jaundiced reader when it comes to trilogies and view them with the same appetite as last week’s leftovers. So what is about this trilogy that makes me want to read on?

Seeds of Earth begins with a bang and then jumps forward 150 years to pick up the pieces that have been thrown far and wide. And what curious pieces they are. The galaxy abounds with intelligent alien life and only some of it is friendly. Earth’s three colony ships (that bang at the beginning) have run into several different flavours of it after escaping a particularly nasty version. Seeds of Earth is the story, told at the human level, of those three colony ships rediscovering each other and Earth.

The story is told with a straightforwardness that is surprising given the manifold layers of plot twist (there are wheels within wheels within wheels, not everything is as it seems, and major players are lying) with characters, even the villains, I care about. If this was a pirate story there would be swashbuckling; whatever the science-fictional analogue of that term is is here too, but only a couple of trowels’ worth so the flavour isn’t ruined.

I am looking forward to volume two (now out, hurray) to administer more plot twists and resolve others. In the meantime sit back and enjoy the ride, the view’s out of this world.

-Simon Litten

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