Thursday, June 5, 2014

Botanicaust - Tam Linsey

After genetically altered weeds devastate Earth's croplands, Dr. Tula Macoby believes photosynthetic skin can save the human race. Her people single-mindedly embark on a mission to convert the cannibals roaming what's left of Earth. But when Levi, a peaceful stranger, refuses alteration, Tula doesn't think the only options should be conversion or death.

It's a futuristic, crapsack world. The earth has experienced the Botanicaust, in which foreign weeds have overtaken almost all plantlife, leaving no crops or the like for humanity. Most have resorted to cannibalism in order to survive; other humans have found a way to survive without much sustenance: by inserting chloroplasts into their skin and photosynthesizing like plants do.

In Levi's case, his community does neither. A heavily religious, tightknit town, using electric fences to keep out the dangerous weeds and the cannibals, the Holdout has been able to survive the Botanicaust. However, his son, Josef, has cystic fibrosis, and there is no way of curing it, except for maybe contacting the Fosselites, advanced people who have also survived the Botanicaust and have discovered eternal life. His journey begins when he searches for them.

Tula is a Haldanian doctor, a Conversion Psychiatrist who aids cannibals in converting to Haldanians, people with chloroplasts implanted in their system.  However, when the Burn Ops capture a person who might not actually be a cannibal, Tula takes off on an adventure that will change her life.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Bow down.  We have a winner here.

During my time using BookBub as a way to find free books, I have been waiting for a book like this.  I've been wallowing in the books with okay plots, but badly written characters, or beautiful characters and weak plots, of both good characters and good plots but horrible, stilted writing, and more.  Botanicaust is such a wonderful departure from the land of Mediocre Writing.

The science fiction is science fiction-y.  If you don't like the science fiction genre, it's very possible this book just won't appeal to you.  However, I love science fiction.  It usually doesn't call my name like fantasy or YA novels based on Greek Mythology, but hey, give me a sci-fi book and I will read it with gusto.  In this book, we have green people and immortal (barring fatal wounds and the like) people.  Interestingly enough neither of these are aliens, but rather humans who have dealt with some interesting biochemical engineering.  It goes into both the ethics of science (ie, forcing people to convert, the use of test subjects without consent, etc), and the hubris of scientists.  In Tula's case, she has a hard time believing that anyone could not want to be Haldanian.  She gets the food she needs through the sunlight, and with minor things like protein supplements, she can exist with relative ease.  In the Fosselites' case, well.  That's a bit of a spoiler, but it still ties in with the theme of 'sometimes we are our worst enemies'.

Everyone knows that religion and science often don't go together, so it was interesting to see a highly religious community in a sci fi novel. I think it worked beautifully, and really gave the 'moral way' a very big push and pull in  progressive views, represented by the Haldanians, and conservative views, represented by the Old Order, with the median view being indicated as the best way.

The world building is beautiful, to say the least. When I picked up the book to continue reading, the descriptions of the world made me vividly imagine all of it, from the Holdout to the Protectorate to the cannibal lands. I took a peek at the author's bio, and her education focus on bioengineering makes a ton of sense - it is literally everywhere in her novel. And while this is science fiction and not everything is possible with today's technology, everything seemed realistic given the wording and the explanations behind it. 

The only things I can think to criticize is the romance between Tula and Levi. Frankly, I was more interested in the world and the debates within the novel; I found myself trying to skip ahead when I noticed the sex coming up. I'm never one to enjoy the 'this woman is seducing me, I cannot control my loins' line that Levi's POV repeated a million times. The end of the book's status on their relationship was actually really satisfying, though, so I can forgive what I often struggled through in the book. However, if you really like romance, and sexual romance at that, this probably won't be a bad thing to you.

While the two main characters (and the two cannibals introduced in the book, gosh) are well written, I feel that the main antagonist, Tula's boss, was a bit weaker. Makes you think about the Protectorate and the power system the native Haldanians have over the converts, as it doesn't really make sense for an obviously...xenophobic? genophobic? man to be the head of conversions, unless the rest of the Haldanians were. (Which is funny because all of them are not naturally green as all of them originated from biomed engineers - kind of similar to xenophobic white Americans whose ancestors came from Not America). However, it was good to have a hysterical and Completely Wrong male character, as I've had to deal with that kind of character being female for so long. 

It's pretty feminist friendly. While it doesn't have many women, the main female character is as developed, if not more, as the male protag. It passes the Bechdel test several times. I almost lost  hope for people of color (the regular colors, not green, haha) when one of the Fosselites turned out to be a black woman, and one who didn't die at the end or be shown to be hysteric or lesser than her white peers, god bless. I think some of the cannibals may have also been nonwhite? I would have loved more, but I'm glad there were at least a couple. And again, the lack of diverse sexualities and gender expressions was disappointing but expected.

I would recommend this to all my friends. I probably will end up recommending this to all my friends. It is by far the best, most fully developed story I've read in a long while. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

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