ScienceThrillers.com book review of SEEDERS by AJ Colucci.
By AJ Colucci
(excellent; top 30% of SciThri)
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Category: science horror thriller
Tech rating (out of 5; what does this mean?):
Summary (from the publisher):
George Brookes is a brilliant but reclusive plant biologist living on a remote Canadian island. After his mysterious death, the heirs to his estate arrive on the island, including his daughter Isabelle, her teenage children, and Jules Beecher, a friend and pioneer in plant neurobiology. They will be isolated on the frigid island for two weeks, until the next supply boat arrives.
As Jules begins investigating the laboratory and scientific papers left by George, he comes to realize that his mentor may have achieved a monumental scientific breakthrough: communication between plants and humans. Within days, the island begins to have strange and violent effects on the group, especially Jules who becomes obsessed with George’s journal, the strange fungus growing on every plant and tree, and horrible secrets that lay buried in the woods. It doesn’t take long for Isabelle to realize that her father may have unleashed something sinister on the island, a malignant force that’s far more deadly than any human. As a fierce storm hits and the power goes out, she knows they’ll be lucky to make it out alive.
As you might guess, I’m a bit jaded when it comes to thrillers (100+ reviews at this website so far). I tend to read analytically, and I don’t often experience total immersion in a story. But in the last 20% or so AJ Colucci’s second science-themed thriller, Seeders, I was oblivious to the world.
Horror stories will do that to you.
Yes, Seeders is a different kind of SciThri. It’s both a thriller with a foundation in real science, and a classic horror story. The book’s back cover invokes parallels to Stephen King’s The Shining, and that is a totally legitimate comparison.
AJ Colucci’s books could effortlessly be converted into screenplays. Seeders is plotted very much like a horror film, with a contrived setting on a remote island, a motley mix of people brought together and left on their own, a couple of horny teenagers, a problem with the group’s sole means of communication with the outside world, and of course some bad weather. If you enjoy horror movies, you’ll love Seeders. On the other hand, if you watch a horror movie and curse the stupidity of that girl who goes into the dark basement armed only with a pocket flashlight, you will probably get frustrated with Seeders, too. Not everybody in the story behaves rationally. In their defense, some kind of mind-altering force is apparently at work on the island, which could justify some of the bad decisions (and lack of urgency) displayed by the characters.
A key part of the originality in this story is the mystery about what’s happening inside the characters’ heads: why did George die in the prologue? how will whatever killed him affect the new arrivals? is it madness or is it plant mind control?
Colucci gives us an interesting protagonist–Isabelle, daughter of the deceased, mother of two teenage boys, and a wife who in one way or another has been a victim her whole life. How she responds to the crisis she finds herself in, especially as a mother, is a big part of what turns the pages.
Plant and fungal biology are the science-y elements to this tale. Colucci’s use of a solid foundation on these sciences to build her tale makes this a 3-biohazard science thriller. Naturally, the horrors that grow from this ground are a bit far removed from reality.
Seeders starts with a high-impact opening, then drops to a quieter baseline, and gradually, relentlessly, builds from there. You will be on the edge of your seat for the finish. I give the ending a big thumbs-up.
The gore and violent imagery in Seeders is mildly graphic, PG-13 not R level.
Unusual words: ergot; mycorrhizas; neural network; Cordyceps
If you like AJ Colucci’s cinematic writing style, you’ll like her debut novel The Colony (killer ants destroy New York; ScienceThrillers review).