Book Review: Farseed by Pamela Sargent

Geek Culture
Image: Tor Teen Paperback

If it has been awhile since you’ve read the YA series Seed Trilogy by Pamela Sargent, or if you are unfamiliar with this series, now would be the time to start reading it. Published by Tor Teen Paperback, the reprint of Farseed was released in trade paperback for the first time on January 8, 2013. It is the coming of age story of two teenage girls whose lives crash together under very violent circumstances.

Farseed is the second book in the Seed Trilogy series. Earthseed — the first book in the series — has been optioned by Paramount Pictures.

The events in Farseed take place a little more than 20 years after the events in Earthseed. Ship has seeded Home. Now, Ship’s children have children of their own. History appears to be in danger of repeating itself. The conflict between Zoheret and Ho begins anew because of events surrounding the main protagonists of the story: their 16-year-old daughters.

Farseed is divided into four parts. The first part focuses on Ho’s 16-year-old daughter, Nuy. The second part focuses on Zoheret’s 16-year-old daughter, Leila. Nuy’s and Leila’s lives clash and become intertwined in the third part, with resolution in the very short final part.

Nuy and Leila are very different people.

Nuy grew up with a lot of abuse. This abuse was not only at the hands of her father, Ho, but also at the hands of her mate, Belen, and at the hands of her settlement in general. Her father is mentally insane. Her mate is physically abusive. The people of her settlement fear and distrust her because of her differences. As a result, her thoughts and internal conflicts are very dynamic.

On the other hand, Leila grew up in a positive environment. Her biggest worries involve whether or not she will have offspring before she is 20 like the majority of the settlement — that is, if she’ll have offspring — and boy troubles. She has never witnessed any major conflict, never mind witnessing any real disagreement between people. She has never had to worry about food or shelter. She grew up in a society that, by its very nature, doesn’t lend well to the development of diversity, and is in danger not evolving socially because every one is too afraid to shake up the status quo. Now that they are no longer within the protective belly of Ship, they are too afraid to truly live. In fact, many of theme are hoping for the day that Ship realizes it was a mistake to leave them there, and returns for them. Her environment has grown stagnant.

The first section of Farseed is enthralling. You cannot help but to get sucked into Nuy’s life. When she comes across a group of outsiders, she is conflicted between what her father had told her about them, and a strong desire to flee her upbringing and join the settlements to the north. She is torn between distrust and a strong want to trust these people, because it could mean her salvation. She is torn between the love she has for her father, and the want to escape the abuses with which she has lived for the majority of her life.

In contrast, the second section of Farseed loses the action. The pace is slower. The conflicts are not any more enthralling than trying to decide what you will have for dinner. But, I feel this change in pace does an excellent job in illustrating the diversity that exists between the two main protagonists, and serves to setup the dynamic relationship that will form between Nuy and Leila. The slower pace also allows the reader time to really digest just how different are the realities of these two young women; two young women who — had conflict not occurred between their parents — should have grown up in the same environment.

Then, when their two lives converge in the third part, the story picks up pace, yet again. Not only is the third part filled with action — much more action than the first part — but it is also a very interesting look at how two very different people have to work together, while also preserving the things they hold dear, including the type of life they want for themselves. Neither Nuy nor Leila are fully trusting of each other. But, despite their differences and the fact they could very easily justify making different, easier choices, they manage to set aside their differences.

Aside from the interpersonal conflicts faced by these two teenage protagonists, Farseed is filled with the advanced technology expected in science-fiction, as well as social commentary. Even though the pace of the second part is really slow, it did cause me to consider how some parts of Western society will react to the idea of teenagers finding mates and having children before the age of 20. I also found family dynamics to be quite interesting. Even though I grew up in Canada, as a second generation Canadian with a mix of Scottish and Eastern European upbringing, a lot of these ideas are not “abnormal” to me. I also wonder how Westerners would react to the idea of the birthing program that is in place. Farseed also explores ideas about whether or not humans could truly adapt to an alien ecosystem, and if that alien ecosystem would expel humans because they are the aliens. The book also contains a nice balance between non-gratuitous violence and thoughtful commentary.

You do not need to have read Earthseed to be able follow the story in Farseed. When I was given this book for review, I was told that it is a good stand-alone story. So, in order to see if this was true, I read Farseed before reading Earthseed.

Pamela Sargent does an amazing job of condensing a lot of the information you’ll need about Nuy’s and Leila’s parents in the prologue. Then, throughout the book, Sargent carefully interweaves any other information you will need. I’ve read a lot of series that are written in such a way that you can jump in anywhere, and you’ll be fine. However, none of them do this as seamlessly as Sargent. There is very little repetition of information. The book stands quite well on its own. Whatever repetition is in Farseed is done is such a way as to serve as both a quick refresher for those who read the first book, and it helps the reader who is jumping in to understand the necessary interpersonal dynamics setup in Earthseed.

When I was finished reading Farseed, I immediately wanted to read Earthseed, and am looking forward to the re-release of Seed Seeker.

I recommend that you purchase Farseed by Pamela Sargent, for the science-fiction loving teenager in your household. It is an engaging and dynamic look at society, of interpersonal conflicts, of overcoming differences, and is a story of personal growth for two very different teenage protagonists. Once your teenager has read the book, you’ll probably want to read it, too.

Copies of Earthseed and Farseed were provided for the purposes of this review.

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