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Seeds for the Swarm

By Sim Kern
Seeds for the Swarm by Sim Kern digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

Rylla McCracken dreams of escaping her family's trailer in the Dust States to go to college, but on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, her mother demands she drop out of school to work for Lockburn chemical refinery instead. When Rylla learns Lockburn is planning to dam the Guadalupe River-the last flowing water in Texas-she defies her mother to protest in the state capital. The protest ends in disaster, but her ensuing viral infamy gains Rylla an acceptance to the mysterious Wingates University.

At Wingates, Rylla befriends a diverse group of students, all working on new technologies to save the planet. Besides mountains of homework, Rylla struggles with guilt for leaving her brother behind in the Dust, where tensions with the Lush States are escalating towards civil war. Succeeding at Wingates seems like Rylla's best chance to help her family, until she uncovers a terrible secret about the school's billionaire backers. Now, Rylla and her friends are in a race against the rich to reclaim the world-altering technology they've developed-before it's too late.

1 Review

“First, thank you to Stelliform Press and Sim Kern for the ARC! There were parts of this I did genuinely enjoy and thought were well done. The divide around scientific advancement was shown really well here - the variety in opinions around science and technology were interesting. I am a scientist so I've seen a lot of these perspectives in real life, and the way they were portrayed here was good. There were valid points on all sides. Rylla’s mom was interesting. I have met people very much like her, and I could feel myself reacting to the things she said at times. I like when a book captures a mentality so well. The setting is interesting, the tech seems neat, and the concept of "the world is doomed" is reasonable. The general themes in this book are solid - climate change is bad, humans are doing harm to the planet, science can be used to help or to harm, rich people that hoard things are bad, diversity is important, etc. These are important topics that need to be addressed, though some of these things could have been a little less heavy handed. Most of the gripes I have with the plot or characterization in this book could be solved in the sequels, as this is the first book in a trilogy. My big issues with this are mostly with pacing and development of characters / relationships. When it comes to pacing - the beginning was difficult to get into as you're dropped into a world with new sci-fi terminology and little explanation. Once things started to "click" I had an easier time with this book, but more than once there is a change of scenery, a new cast of characters, and a new set of cultural norms. I felt some of the pieces of this book could have used more time and others things could have been cut. Rylla's relationships, whether romantic or platonic, developed too quickly. I couldn't figure out why her romantic interests were into her or why she was into them, which made the relationships feel forced. I am not a fan of instalove, and I feel that's what we got here. I couldn't understand why she continued to interact with certain characters or why she cared about them after they had been cruel to her and her friends. The cast of characters introduced was too large for me to attach to them, as most side characters don't get a lot of page time between worldbuilding, plot, and the few more main characters besides Rylla. I felt like the platonic bonds between characters were forced at times, as these characters don't seem to truly try to understand each other's perspectives. I'm assuming this will be remedied in future books, as this is a trilogy. I generally enjoy "unlikeable" characters but I found myself frustrated with Rylla more than anything. Her choices often didn't make sense to me, but I can chalk that up to the fact that she's a teenager and in a completely new world. That didn't make her any less frustrating to me. The inclusion of diversity was excellent but the dialogue around it felt stilted and awkward at multiple points. I did like how much variety was in our main cast, but I wish it had been incorporated more smoothly. I did NOT like how addiction was handled here. That part could have been taken out entirely and the time spent on that subplot could have been used for further development of any of the other subplots. All in all: I think this is an interesting concept and world, I loved the diversity in characters, I liked a lot of the major concepts here... but I didn't care for the pacing and I genuinely disliked a few plot points (including the addiction storyline and some of the ending). I am interested in seeing where this series goes in a sequel and I will give the next book a shot!”

About Sim Kern

Sim Kern is an environmental journalist and speculative fiction writer, exploring intersections of climate change, queerness, and social justice. You can find links to all their stories at simkern.com and follow them on Twitter @sim_kern, on Instagram @Sim_bookstagrams_badly, and on their YouTube channel.

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