Sue Burke


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 10th, 2020

nterference is the sequel to Semiosis, and given the ending, it is clear that this the middle book in a trilogy, or perhaps even a longer series is planned. The story resumes where Semiosis left off - the colonists on Pax have survived their war with the alien Glassmakers, and now a society of Glassmakers, humans and plants is attempting to build a bigger, more prosperous civilization.

A second colony ship arrives from Earth. Unlike the original expedition, their ship doesn't crash upon landing and so this second wave of colonists retain their technology. This places them at a distinct advantage with respect to the first colonists. The original expedition doesn't trust the newcomers, and conceals key aspects about the planet; most importantly, they hide the fact that the plants on Pax are intelligent.

The novel doesn't deal entirely with the disputes between the various factions of Pax dwellers. There is also some exploration of the entire planet - the original colonists lost their landers when they crashed, but the second wave brings new landers and new chances to see more of the world. The most interesting new development is a species of land "coral" that seem to be expanding. Given that all plants on Pax are sentient, it stands to reason that these corals are also aware. A group of Pax citizens sets out to understand what is happening in the mysterious coral area.

Interference maintains the same storytelling style as Semiosis - each chapter is narrated by a different character, and as time advances through the chapters, the characters age. This means that someone you meet early in the book will be seen as an elder later in the book, or they will have already perished. This style makes its hard to identify with any character, especially since someone that is sympathetic in one chapter appears in an entirely different light in a subsequent chapter told by another character with a different viewpoint. The opening chapter is the story of Karola, a young woman on Earth. Earth has suffered a horrible population drop, half of the people have died due to a deliberate, slow-acting poisoning of the food supply. In retaliation, the Earth government locks the perpetrator in a cell and tortures her. And when the original perpetrator dies, they lock a clone of the perpetrator into the cell and continue the punishment. Karola realizes that she is one of the clones, being raised until it is her time to the torture cell. So she will do anything to get off of Earth and join the second expedition to Pax. Karola is ruthless, but understandably so. It was a great opening chapter - and then the focus of the next chapter shifts to another colonist, and Karola pretty much is never heard from again in the rest of the book.

The only constant is the rainbow bamboo plant Stevland. Are bamboo plants immortal? Apparently they are on Pax. Stevland is the last of his kind, with a huge underground network of roots that link his various stands together. Stevland has eyes and ears throughout the colony and he sees most of what is going on. Fortunately, Stevland appears benign and has the best interests of the city in mind (of course, having the city succeed also furthers Steveland's interests. Stevland is quite curious about the results of planetary explorations that are now possible with the new landers.

There is a lot of competing agendas here, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Almost nothing is learned about where the Glassmakers came from, or why the originally abandoned their city. There is plenty more story lines available, which hopefully will be expanded, if not completed, in the next volume of the series.