Travel Documents 34: Fireseed One

Fireseed One (A Fireseed Novel Book 1)

Catherine Stine
Genre: spec-fic, YA, cli-fi, adventure

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The Dust Cover Copy

What if only your very worst enemy could help you save the world? Fireseed One, a futuristic YA thriller, is set on a near-future earth with soaring heat, toxic waters, tricked-out amphibious vehicles, ice-themed dance clubs and fish that grow up on vines. Varik Teitur inherits a vast sea farm after the mysterious drowning of his marine biologist father.

When Marisa Baron, a beautiful and shrewd terrorist, who knows way too much about Varik’s father’s work, tries to steal seed disks from the world’s food bank, Varik is forced to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and venture with her, into a hot zone teeming with treacherous nomads and a Fireseed cult who worships his dead father, in order to search for Fireseed, a seemingly magical hybrid plant that may not even exist. Fans of Divergent will likely enjoy this as well as those who like romance with their page-turners.

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

Stine gives us a fascinating and disturbingly climate changed world: only the North and South Artic Circles are easily habitable. The rest of the planet has become the ‘Hot Zone’, and death comes in many unpleasant forms across the former inhabited areas. Melanoma is rampant. Limbs are regularly amputated due to third degree sunburns and the resultant gangrene. Refugees from the Hot Zone are kept at bay by a ferociously patrolled wall. The more fortunate northerners raise the agar that is the basis of their technology, party in clubs that fantasize about snow, and play in their watery paradise.

But when so many people are asked to live in Hell so that a few may live in Paradise, conflict is inevitable. And it comes quickly in this energetic YA romp through a tomorrow I don’t want to see.

The story revolves around Varik, a young man who has recently lost his father and taken on the mantle of owner for one of the largest agar farms in the Water Dominion. It’s an intimidating challenge for a teen, made all the more daunting by acts of theft and vandalism to his farm and its seed bank. Longing for his father’s expertise and angry at his father’s lies, Varik must come into his own to save both his farm and his people. Maybe all humanity.

The Crowd

Characterization

The main characters are sweetly gawky, temperamental, empathetic and emotional as you’d expect a teen to be. Varik is a goofy, sweet, diffident boy who slowly finds the core of steel inside himself. Marisa is a born firebrand who slowly learns to temper her fire with cool logic through the story and her connection to Varik. And Varik’s pal is the goofy sidekick everybody needs.

Watching the characters learn and grow past their own weaknesses makes this a great entry for the YA cli-fi genre. Varik has a great deal to learn about himself, about the world, and about empathy. Marisa learns to see the world more clearly.

And of course, they get to know one another…rather well 😉 The romance subplot is a touch sudden, but it does encompass the classic awkward sweetness of young love and first tries at emotional vulnerability.

I would have liked to see the same strength of purpose poured into the protagonists put into some of the supporting cast. Particularly irksome to me is the embitterment of Varik’s father, which feels a little too pat. Granted, it has been known to happen in life, when a dedicated person burns out. All the same, I found it difficult as a point. Several of the other characters were a little too obviously there for reasons of plot. But it generally smooths out overall.

The Lingo

Writing Style

The story is intentionally written with the thought process and emotions of a teen in mind. Stylistically it works very well, but as an adult reader you do occasionally shake your head and think ‘oh kiddo. Oh, don’t do that.’ It perfectly captured the frustration and feeling of being in your teens.

The Moves

Plot

This story makes for a nice tight romp through climate disaster; reflective, sometimes a little censorious of the mistakes that created the only world our characters have ever known, but ultimately hopeful. The story stresses that, though humanity has made terrible mistakes, they have also found ways to be wonderfully resilient.

The plot stays on point and purposeful throughout, dropping careful hints at the right places. To adult readers it’s a touch predictable, but it possesses the pleasant element of a magic show: you know what’s going on, but you’ll stick around to see a trick done well. I found it perfectly entertaining and just the right amount of uplifting.

Overall Rating

A refreshing, sweet and energetic addition to the cli-fi genre, it’s one to curl up and read on a Saturday morning.