Semiosis – Sue Burke


Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor Books

In this character driven novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke, human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance.

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet’s sentient species and prove that mammals are more than tools.

Forced to land on a planet they aren’t prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape–trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

Semiosis is a truly unique first contact story. From the plot to the format it’s written in, it will keep you on your toes while making you second-guess every thought you have.

Semiosis is large in scope, as each chapter features new characters from the different colonist generations. This format allows the reader to experience acclimating to the new world fully by seeing how the different characters react to the various stimuli presented. It also allows for different personalities and thought processes to develop in this new environment. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I appreciated the format since it was jarring at first to have to connect with new characters after having just gotten used to the ones in the previous chapter.

I’ve never read a first contact story like this. Plants as sentient beings are unique and so damn interesting. It only works because of the format Burke used to tell the story. The reader sees the progression of the planet, the people, and the interaction between the two.

Overall, Semiosis is a fantastic read that I would recommend to fans of the exploring a new planet storyline as it offers something truly unique to the genre.


Have you read Semiosis? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “Semiosis – Sue Burke

  1. I’m definitely curious about how you got used to the constant change in characters. It would have to take a very compelling story with great ideas for me to not make the whole character thing an issue! Great review, Nadine! 🙂

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