Earthseed by Pamela Sargent (1983)

Earthseed by Pamela Sargent (1983)Earthseed (Seed #1) by Pamela Sargent
Published: Armada Books (1983), Hardcover, 290pg
Source: Library
Genres: Fiction, Sci-fi

Ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children—fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates—whom it has created from its genetic banks.

To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them…but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test. And suddenly, instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers—and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race—themselves? (from Amazon)

I discovered this book by browsing the YA section at the library where I work– one of my favorite pastimes, actually– and based on the first page (which you can find on Amazon here) I thought I might enjoy it. And luckily, I did!

The whole concept of humankind travelling out into space to populate some other planet is one that’s been done since, like, sci-fi was invented, but it’s always one that interests me. I love all the technical aspects of getting humans there, getting them to survive, and then getting them to get along. Earthseed is a great example of all those things I love, plus it’s got lots of other interesting stuff (AI computer! Cloning! Asteroid-turned-spaceship!) and it all coincides with puberty and growing up. It’s not just a sci-fi novel: it’s also a coming-of-age tale. Woohoo!

The characters are a slight problem, as they tended to be rather bland and interchangeable. Even Zoheret, the heroine, never managed to capture my affection and only barely had my interest. However, I loved seeing them mature and figure out how to survive– and I do think that later in the book they somehow found more distinctive personalities. Because I wasn’t particularly close to Zoheret, I did feel more like an observer than a participant and that created a bigger wall between myself and the characters than I think is good– but I enjoyed observing nonetheless.

Besides the problem with the characters, I do think the writing style is very good. It’s somehow both elegant and harsh at the same time; it doesn’t hold anything back, but it does it in a gentle sort of way. It’s a good fit for the story, which was oftentimes violent, bloody, and dark. I also thought it got across big concepts– what makes a person human, tyranny, even artificial intelligence– with grace and subtlety, something that I think is somewhat rare in YA books.

I had a lot of fun reading Earthseed, despite its flaws. It’s engaging, exciting, and, overall, an excellent YA book.

Read: May 2009

3 thoughts on “Earthseed by Pamela Sargent (1983)”

  1. I have to do this book for an english class project… I counldn’t find anything else…
    I LOVE reading, but SiFi isn’t my forte (except Hunger Games). You say this book is good, but how long does it take to get into it? I read the first chap. and it was boring. How many chaps. into it must I go for it to get interesting? meh… =(

    1. If you can’t get into it after the first chapter then I don’t think you’ll enjoy the rest– I didn’t start liking it until maybe chapter two? Do you HAVE to read this book, or will any YA sci-fi book do? You might like LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld, or TANGLEWRECK by Jeanette Winterson, or maybe GONE by Michael Grant. They’re not hard sci-fi but they do have sci-fi elements, and I think they’d be good for people who normally don’t read sci-fi.

      If you DO have to read more hard sci-fi, try FEED by M.T. Anderson. It’s short(ish), and it moves pretty quickly, I think. 😀 I hope that helps!

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