Intelligent plants star in "Interference."

In Semiosis, Sue Burke introduced the human colonists of the planet Pax and the sentient alien species they encountered there. But Burke seems to have more in mind than simply writing a good science fiction novel. Apparently, she was eager to show off. Semiosis is a term from linguistics that connotes the creation of meaning through signs. Not billboards, mind you, but anything that conveys meaning. And, in billing the novel as the first book in a duology, she meant, simply, that it was the first of two books in a series of two. I’m wondering why she didn’t just say that. Fortunately, the book, its pretentious title notwithstanding, was well done. In Semiosis, she introduced intelligent plants, and she did so adroitly. The sequel, Interference, isn’t as good.


Interference (Semiosis Duology #2) by Sue Burke (2019) 315 pages ★★★☆☆½


In Semiosis, the human characters were less than fully developed. The story spans centuries, and each of the many narrators is on stage for a limited time. As a result, they come across as human, but just barely. In Interference, the humans’s behavior is less credible. And every one of them is newly introduced, which compounds the problem exhibited in the first book. In fact, the non-humans often behave in more recognizably human ways.

Intelligent plants and other sentient alien species

The conceit on which this “duology” is based is that there are multiple sentient species to be found among the stars. In Semiosis, we meet the Glassmakers — an insectoid species of colonists who had arrived on Pax earlier than the humans — and a panoply of plant species, all of which demonstrate sentience to one degree or another. In Interference, we encounter yet another alien colonizing species, which of course accounts for some of the interference hinted in the title. But most of the interference comes from a newly arriving complement of humans. And that, in the final analysis, seems to be the point. Clearly, those plants are a lot smarter than people.

For further reading

I reviewed Semiosis at Can plants think? These colonists on an alien world learn the answer the hard way.

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