(Cover picture courtesy of Catherine Stine’s blog.)
The year is 2089. Temperate climate has replaced Arctic ice, and much of what is now the United States is a lethal Hotzone, cut off by an insurmountable border from its northern, luckier neighbors, Ocean and Land Dominion. It is rumored that roving Hotzone nomads will kill for a water pellet or a slice of insect loaf, and that the ZWC, a dangerous Hotzone activist group, has infiltrated the border to the northern Dominions.
Up in Ocean Dominion, all eighteen year-old Varik Teitur wants is to party on SnowAngel Island with his friend Audun and flirt with college girls he dreams of joining next year in his quest to become a doctor. Instead, he inherits a vast sea farm, following the death of his father, famous marine biologist Professor Teitur. Five weeks later, ZWC member Marisa Baron breaks into the farm’s secret seed vault and a fellow activist poisons the farm’s agar crops, the world’s food source. In order to save the last agar seedlings Varik is forced to journey to the Hotzone in search of Fireseed, a plant his father supposedly developed with magical hybridization properties.
Varik takes Marisa along. Aside from being a terrorist, she’s the beautiful daughter of Melvyn Baron, the biggest real estate mogul in Land Dominion, and the professor’s old rival. Oddly, she knows lots about Fireseed, and what Hotzone land Professor Teitur bought to test the crop, before becoming embittered and trashing the project. No one except Varik knows whether Fireseed once existed off the drawing board. Might the refugees in Vegas-by-the-Sea have answers, or the bizarre Fireseed cult in the Chihuahua desert? Varik, the reluctant hero, must risk burning in the Hotzone, as his mother did, to save the ailing agar, and the world.
(Summary courtesy of Amazon.)
[Full disclosure: Catherine Stine mailed me a copy of FireSeed One in exchange for an honest review.]
Despite the fact that FireSeed One takes place in a highly creative, well-built possible future, I have mixed feelings about it.
For whatever reason, I could not connect with any of the characters. Not a single one piqued my interest and I really didn’t care about what happened to any of them, even the main characters. I’m not sure why this was, but it felt like there wasn’t enough emotion in the writing; I didn’t truly feel the stress Varik was under, his growing love for Marisa, his worry about the augur seeds, etc.
This could be because the world of FireSeed One is so strange and takes a lot of getting used to your first time around, meaning that after a couple read-throughs, my opinion could change. Varik and Marisa are decent enough characters with highly believable backstories, so there is definitely a lot of potential here. It could also be because I am far from the age group Catherine Stine has targeted, as it is a ‘middle years’ novel. Who knows?
Despite my problems with the characters, I had no problems whatsoever with the world of FireSeed One. Catherine Stine has written about a future that’s both exciting and frightening, depending on where you live in said future. It won’t win any awards for including hardcore science, but the scenario she describes is very plausible, depending on whether you think climate change is real or not—a controversy I’m not going to get into. The abandonment of people in the Hotzone is also, sadly, plausible because I have very little faith in humanity if there are dwindling resources in a rapidly changing world.
FireSeed One is a great novel for older tweens and young teens and I suspect most people will connect with the characters much better than I did. So if you’re looking for a novel with decent characters, excellent world-building and a fast-paced plot, you’ll enjoy FireSeed One.
I give this book 4/5 stars.