SPSFC Review: Harvest by Olga Werby

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SPSFC DISCLAIMER: This is another book that’s in my SPSFC batch over on team Tar Vol On. Once again, I am just one judge of six, and my opinion is my own. The fate of all these books is in many hands and my opinion doesn’t count for any more than another judge. Whether this goes through to the next round or not depends on a lot of people — so with that said, here’s my review!

REVIEW: The world suffered a catastrophic devastation when three sister asteroids struck the Earth — Africa to be specific. It left a large percentage of the human population dead, and Africa is now uninhabitable. Just about 65 years have passed since then and humanity has realized that spreading out and living off planet may be the way to best ensure the species survival.

Humanity is starting extraplanetary exploration but there’s nothing like warp drive yet. This is set in ~2130, and we, as a species, are just getting our space-legs. There’s been a discovery on the moon of Saturn… an ancient artefact that’s tens of thousands of years old, leaving the obviously looming question; who made it? Matteo has also discovered the presence of nanobots throughout the planet…except we didn’t make them. It’s alien technology, and it’s suspiciously well designed to integrate with Earth’s biology. The implications make a lot of people very nervous.

Things start to go awry when the nanobots attach themselves to cybernetic implants and deaths are starting to become more common. The top minds of humanity have to figure out what these aliens want, what their motivations could be, and how to handle them before something worse happens.

I really liked a lot of the ideas behind this book. My background is in ethology/biology and I always perk up when that takes center stage. I love the idea of studying socio-evolution and the anthropological aspects to this book. The MC is kind of an anthropologist of sorts and it makes for an interesting crossover when you’re trying to explain potential alien motivations. I felt like I wanted more, though. There are certain things I would have expected to have made more of an impact on the world and story — like the immense radiation described in Africa, making it uninhabitable for millions of years. I would have expected the world to be more… different in every day life and on a global scale. One of the big things that was addressed was the importance of genetic variance and existence of a human seed banks — keeping varied genetic material so certain lines of humans don’t die out. Outside of that though there wasn’t a ton of explanation on how a radioactive continent was affecting everyone else.

It took me a long time to warm up to the characters, but I did by the end really enjoy Vars and her dad, Matteo. I found their relationship to be endearing to both of their characters, and it evoked serious emotion from me later on in the book when serious shit is starting to go down and neither one knows which if either of them are going to live. I wasn’t crazy about many of the side characters, and I kind of felt like this was a largely plot driven book. That’s fine, once the plot got going I really enjoyed it, it was just a slower start.

I think my biggest issue was with the pacing. There was a lot of time spent on planning, thinking every aspect of something through, and going on long monologues about different scientific theories. Sometimes this can work really, really well for me, but it has to be balanced with forward movement — test some of these ideas instead of throwing one theory after another out there. I’m also pretty familiar with the majority of the theories being talked about… and instead of those theories being applied in-world, they’re merely introduced as concepts to lay-characters… since I’m already familiar it wasn’t as engaging as it could have been.

All in all I would really recommend this to people who like to explore the ideas of first contact, panspermia, anthropology, space exploration, terraforming, different societal structures and careful planning.

Ratings:

  • Plot: 11.5/15
  • Characters: 12/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 11.5/15
  • Enjoyment: 7.5/10

Final Score: 77/100