REVIEW: “The Seeds of Consciousness: 4107’s Story” by James Gunn

Review of James Gunn, “The Seeds of Consciousness: 4107’s Story”, Asimov’s Science Fiction January/February (2018): 19-32 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.

As a species, Floran dreams were rooted to the soil; their nightmares were filled with the dread of being separated from it. But their will was stronger than their fears…

Up there as my favourite of Gunn’s series of tie-in stories for his novel Transcendental.

4107 is a Floran, a sentient plant species. The Florans have evolved over generations, growing from blissful cycles of growing in the sun and dying back to the soil, to overcoming both native and insterstellar threats, and finally reaching out to the stars on their own.

I really enjoyed the mythological feel of this piece. It feels like a creation story, except it goes far beyond creation. The long, collective memories of the Florans, reaching back to the first sprouting, and the generally long cycles Floran history has taken allows for this gradual unfolding of the Floran’s evolution. And an evolution it is! Responding to different adverse circumstances which force them to adapt and respond in order to survive which, in turn, drives their advancement in thought, technology and perspective. All the while the Florans retain a unique perspective, intelligence and problem-solving approach built from their worldview and cultural priorities. This is an alternate evolution trajectory, in some ways familiar and in other ways quite alien to a human (‘meat’) perspective and it is fascinating to watch.

As this is a background story to an existing novel, universe and character this piece may be a bit “infodumpy” or lacking in story for some. It does have an alternate history feel to it and, while I didn’t find that this hindered my enjoyment of it, it might not work for some readers.

Novel tie-ins can be tough to pull off, I think in part because you don’t want to give away the novel’s trajectory, but there needs to be enough of a conclusion to be satisfying to the reader. This story achieved that, bringing us a full history of Floran civilisation up to a set point before showing them boldly heading towards their next era. I liked that the story wrapped up in the middle of the Floran’s full story, showing us where they wanted to go, but leaving it to the reader (perhaps in the novel) to find out whether they achieved this. The ending scene was a particular highlight for me, bringing us back to a familiar cultural perspective and environment with humour and hinting at the next steps for 4107 and the Florans’ journey in the universe.

 

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