Title: The Seventh Seed
Author: Allison Maruska
Genre: Dystopian Thriller
In the near future, government propaganda rules the American airwaves while mega-corporations manipulate government officials. Javier, a young, brilliant researcher, notices a critical agricultural problem in the heartland that hints at a conspiracy looming in plain sight. However, the powers-that-be have no intent on letting Javier and his research come to light.
The back story of everything Javier did to get on the wrong side of the Big Brother government and the government’s collaborators in the Bio-Ag Engineering Business takes a back seat and never quite fully develops. A frenetic pace sends Javier and a growing team of anti-government sympathizers back and forth across the nation just to stay a half-step ahead of the g-men intent on silencing them. The plot twists and turns without doubling back on itself, never fully heading in a predictable direction.
A nicely handled character counter-point emerges in Charlie, the fed in charge of bringing Javier in–alive or dead. In Charlie’s back story, occupational drive and conviction are all too familiar. But what’s left of his family–his sister and her teenage son–are Charlie’s weak point. The clever teen, only a couple years younger than Charlie, is too smart for his own good and doesn’t keep quiet in a society that honors those who keep their heads down and their noses clean.
Other early characters add color and complementary points of view. This becomes a challenge down the line as the expanding group starts to blur around the edges, and a few seem a bit too conveniently connected and placed.
But it’s not the characters that make this tale, with the possible exception of Charlie, but the state of the union itself. This dystopia doesn’t have a named despot pulling the strings like so many other tales. It’s an inconvenient marriage of government and business, with the media and military just as complicit and ensnared. Most everyone is following orders and not asking questions. While the Bio-Ag company is clearly the antagonist, it remains headless, therefore no wizard behind the curtain. The anonymity of the corporate monster remains that way with clever implications.
While the plausibility factor of the details may remain rather low for this cautionary tale, the same would have to be said for many, if not most, sci-fi thrillers. That does not negate the cautionary message; it merely makes the message easier for the audience to digest. The relatable characters run the gamut of how complicit they act as society veers toward Big Brother, and more importantly, how they act as truth challenges the propaganda.
A driving, fast-paced thriller, this stand-alone novel prioritizes tension and anxiety as it starts in the middle of a car chase collision. It speeds like a spy novel but wears the trappings of dystopian sci-fi. Multiple points of view tell this near future tale as a Bio-Ag Engineering Corporation closes in on the young researcher who’s learned too much. In essence, the story asks: How does one slay a headless beast?
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