By Sue Burke
It’s been said that the most well adapted form of life on Earth is grass. Covering everything from suburban lawns to wheat fields to savannahs, grass has become dominant both because it’s so hardy and because people invest so much time, money and effort in taking care of it.
Could grass have been planning this global takeover all along? Semiosis, the fascinating debut novel from Sue Burke, makes you wonder.
The story begins with a small group of settlers arriving on a habitable planet they name Pax. The life forms native to Pax are exotic but comparable to life on Earth, with one of the big differences being that plant life is sentient. In particular, a colourful form of bamboo dubbed Stevland is revealed to be highly intelligent.
As the settler community adapts to life on Pax they enter into a cooperative relationship with Stevland, which leads to some interesting observations on the building of complex social systems from the ground up and the dangers of trying to direct the process of evolution.