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Appleseed

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In the vein of Neal Stephenson and Jeff VanderMeer, an epic speculative novel from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity's unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.  In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the In the vein of Neal Stephenson and Jeff VanderMeer, an epic speculative novel from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity's unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.  In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken—and possibly healed. Fifty years from now, in the second half of the twenty-first century, climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power—and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build. A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier—and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization. Hugely ambitious in scope and theme, Appleseed is the breakout novel from a writer “as self-assured as he is audacious” (NPR) who “may well have invented the pulse-pounding novel of ideas” (Jess Walter). Part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale, Appleseed is an unforgettable meditation on climate change; corporate, civic, and familial responsibility; manifest destiny; and the myths and legends that sustain us all. 


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In the vein of Neal Stephenson and Jeff VanderMeer, an epic speculative novel from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity's unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.  In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the In the vein of Neal Stephenson and Jeff VanderMeer, an epic speculative novel from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity's unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.  In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken—and possibly healed. Fifty years from now, in the second half of the twenty-first century, climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power—and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build. A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier—and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization. Hugely ambitious in scope and theme, Appleseed is the breakout novel from a writer “as self-assured as he is audacious” (NPR) who “may well have invented the pulse-pounding novel of ideas” (Jess Walter). Part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale, Appleseed is an unforgettable meditation on climate change; corporate, civic, and familial responsibility; manifest destiny; and the myths and legends that sustain us all. 

30 review for Appleseed

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Real Rating: 4.75* of five, rounded up Listen to Author Bell discuss and describe the book! I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: When I read Author Bell's 2013 novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, it was a startling experience. Sadly, it came at almost exactly the same time as my epic emotional collapse so I've only recently reviewed it. Let me tell you now, in brief, why I think it was an extraordinarily good read: Myth-making never Real Rating: 4.75* of five, rounded up Listen to Author Bell discuss and describe the book! I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: When I read Author Bell's 2013 novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, it was a startling experience. Sadly, it came at almost exactly the same time as my epic emotional collapse so I've only recently reviewed it. Let me tell you now, in brief, why I think it was an extraordinarily good read: Myth-making never ceases, no culture is without its myths; that book was an exploration of The Couple Myth at length; and there is no better way to make myths than to put the most complete possible vocabulary of the day around them. Appleseed is a fuller exploration of this technique applied to Climate Change. What myths are we exploring this time...is there a myth-set tale that this three-handed sonata plays on? Yes...the title's the first giveaway, there's a definite connection to the Johnny Appleseed myth made from John Chapman's actual life spent planting the American West with economically useful apple trees in advance of the settlers coming to Ohio (yes, that *was* the West then, surprising isn't it two hundred years on). Nathaniel, older human brother of Chapman the faun, does the work of finding the way, avoiding the humans who would hurt or kill his behornèd brother of the golden eyes and hoofed legs. Chapman knows the land, even the land he's never been on. It is his nature. And we all know what happens to Nature, don't we. The greater glory of a christian god is costly, always and in all ways; do you wish to continue past the point of no return? John lives in our near-term future, a recycler busily trying to undo the Works of Man that Chapman and Jonathan, in their innocence, believe to be Progress instead of progressive rot. He travels alone when we meet him...he is looking for his (female, of course) buddy/pal/squeeze because, well, humans need each other. His dystopia, an Amercan West (the one we know as such today) is tinder-dry, eczema-dotted with our dams and roads and ghosts of towns that he wants to render inoperable and irreparable. Needless to say, the corporate entity that actually, formally, owns the whole expanse doesn't like some rando ruining perfectly usable infrastructure. Especially now that all those pesky people aren't cluttering it up. The slow reveal of why John and his ex are doing what they're doing to re-wild the West is a piece of misdirection I can't quite bring myself to spoil...but suffice it to say the era of mythmaking about Man's Plenipotentiary Powers à la Sisyphus is not over yet. And then there's C-433. This being lives many, many lives in our distant, glacier-scraped future. This way of live is enabled by spelunking the crevasses that always open in craters and reclaiming for reuse whatever materials from the time before are reclaimable. We're not-quite told that C-433 is a clone host for the consciousness of an earlier human...or maybe faun? note initial...and this iteration/incarnation is a risk-averse, therefore old, entity facing the reality that a scavenger doesn't produce anything so will, inevitably, pass from the scene. As a way of life it is severely limited. But, in each of these story lines, there is a leitmotif, a through-line, that Author Bell resurfaces for your easter-egging pleasure. The Loom might be my favorite fictional technology ever; the uses of the scavenged materials, the most poignant. The apple...the choice that C-433 has to make...there are absolutely delightful connections made among these grace notes. The complexity of the read is one of its pleasures and I encourage you, like you would with any rich and calorific consumable, to go slowly...make it last. Think about it as you go to sleep, dream its scenes as you're processing its sweet, sonorous prose. So why, if I'm practically crooning my pleasure in hopes of luring you to read it, am I rating it less than five full stars? Because, while I as a lifelong inhabitant of this country appreciate its US-centered myth-making and its implicit acceptance that our (in)actions are largely responsible for this disaster, it feels wrong to simply dismiss with a cursory glance the planet-wide scale of it. Because there's a weird, unnecessary straight-man sex scene that jolts progress to a halt while we indulge y'all's ugly needs. Because the ending...while interesting...wasn't anything like the rest of the book so felt merged from a different FTP with middling success. None of those things rise above the level of quibbles because the gestalt carries the day. There is such a beautiful tapestry woven of these lovely words. I've avoided quoting them to you because, well, which ones? Why those? Where's the perfect quote for this idea...this one, that one, no no the other one...and it got headachey trying to figure it out. What didn't get headachey was this phrase, this simple phrase, that says everything the book and the future need you to know: "No matter what you do, there will never be more time left to act than there is now." A call to arms, a fable of consequences, a myth of magisterial beauty and magical urgency.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Without this being the July book for the Nervous Breakdown Book Club, I likely wouldn’t have picked it up, much less read it. Described on the flap as “part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale,” the latter is the only part that would’ve appealed to me. That part is done so well, it carried me through (along with the prose) because it is carried all the way through and not just a focus of the past. The “reinvented fairy tale” is part mythology—Eurydice/Orpheus, fauns, Without this being the July book for the Nervous Breakdown Book Club, I likely wouldn’t have picked it up, much less read it. Described on the flap as “part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale,” the latter is the only part that would’ve appealed to me. That part is done so well, it carried me through (along with the prose) because it is carried all the way through and not just a focus of the past. The “reinvented fairy tale” is part mythology—Eurydice/Orpheus, fauns, nymphs, Fate and Furies—and part folklore—the merging of the tale of Johnny Appleseed with the aforementioned myths: all carried forward hundreds and hundreds of years into the future. The middle time period—a near future—was scarily interesting, as it’s easy to envision some of its events happening very soon: takeover of governments by a corporation; the American West “sacrificed” for the so-called greater good. A later scene of this time period held too much action for me, but in a strange way this section helped me retrospectively understand more of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. If I didn’t understand some of the speculative/science-fiction aspects at first, it’s because I might have a brain blockage toward that kind of thing. But Bell’s wonderful writing made it easy to immerse myself in his world(s). I’m impressed with his talent for bringing in such disparate elements without sacrificing beautiful prose. I’m left with one question regarding a young woman in the past and the main character of the middle time-period with the same last name, but some mysteries are good, especially as the author didn’t go where I hoped he wouldn’t.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    An extremely ambitious novel that isn't just riding a "cli-fi" trend. With multiple timelines and weaving in biblical and mythological stories, Bell builds three entirely separate and entirely full worlds for you to live in so you can watch people destroy them. Perhaps the smartest thing Bell does is not to set all of this in the future. 2 of the 3 stories are there, one in the nearer-future and one in the much-farther, but one goes back to the kind of story you know well, of settlers in the wild An extremely ambitious novel that isn't just riding a "cli-fi" trend. With multiple timelines and weaving in biblical and mythological stories, Bell builds three entirely separate and entirely full worlds for you to live in so you can watch people destroy them. Perhaps the smartest thing Bell does is not to set all of this in the future. 2 of the 3 stories are there, one in the nearer-future and one in the much-farther, but one goes back to the kind of story you know well, of settlers in the wilderness of North America when land was still open to whoever could muster the will and the strength to go out and take it. We have seen all kinds of dismal futures but Bell also gets us to take a new look at the past and to reconsider it through the Johnny Appleseed folk tale. Johnny Appleseed is, in our story, two brothers, Nathaniel and Chapman, who move through the unsettled lands building apple orchards so the land will be easier to settle, with fruit ready to go for the new occupants when they arrive. It starts out as a beautiful story but it's slowly tainted and complicated by this story and the juxtaposition of it against the others. Chapman, our protagonist for this storyline, finds himself questioning everything they are doing and their self-imposed exile, undertaken because Chapman himself is not a man but a faun who must be hidden from people. In the future, it isn't looking good. There is John, who scavenges through a mostly-deserted west after a massive corporation has basically taken over the country. And there is C-432, who is, well, it's not quite clear but C's world is a vastly different one, overrun by glaciers, where C seems to be the only living thing whose only task is to find any possible biomass and take it back to its mechanized home. These three stories are sometimes in parallel and sometimes intertwining, all of them centrally concerned with the land. It reminded me very much of Louisa Hall's SPEAK, which is a high compliment. It isn't easy to address similar themes across such disparate stories but both books do it very well. I won't lie, this took me a long time to read. It's a long book, but moving between the three plots, where often only one of them is in the middle of the action, it requires you to stick with it. I often sat down and read three chapters (one from each timeline) and then set it down to pick it up the next day. It's pretty uncommon for me to read a novel so slowly and actually stick with it but I really wanted to see where Bell was going and I'm glad I did. It was a challenge for me as a reader, I don't always gravitate to this style of prose, but I found it very rewarding and thoughtful and surprising.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Toria

    I listened to it as a audiobook, seems well written and the narrative was good. Though the story didn't captivate me and I feel rather unfocused listening to it. Maybe I wasn't in the right headspace for it, maybe I should pick it up in a boob format someday or it's just wasn't the book for me. The blurb did sound very intriguing though. I listened to it as a audiobook, seems well written and the narrative was good. Though the story didn't captivate me and I feel rather unfocused listening to it. Maybe I wasn't in the right headspace for it, maybe I should pick it up in a boob format someday or it's just wasn't the book for me. The blurb did sound very intriguing though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Crystal King

    A breathtaking work of fiction, both in its scope and its execution. Matt Bell writes beautiful and evocative passages that stay long in the memory. Appleseed is a cautionary tale of our future, but one that harkens to the past. I loved Bell's ability to weave fairytale and myth into a story of science and environment and man's deadly impact on nature itself. A strange, gorgeous, sometimes harrowing novel, Appleseed is a must-read. A breathtaking work of fiction, both in its scope and its execution. Matt Bell writes beautiful and evocative passages that stay long in the memory. Appleseed is a cautionary tale of our future, but one that harkens to the past. I loved Bell's ability to weave fairytale and myth into a story of science and environment and man's deadly impact on nature itself. A strange, gorgeous, sometimes harrowing novel, Appleseed is a must-read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    Appleseed is a book that will make you examine your relationship with the natural world and whether you are helping or hurting it. Appleseed is set in three different timelines with three seemingly different stories. Yet, there are a few threads that connect these stories such as humanity’s impact on the world as well as the apple tree. This book focuses on climate and how we as humans have effectively destroyed our planet to the point of no return. We see the start of this destruction from the Appleseed is a book that will make you examine your relationship with the natural world and whether you are helping or hurting it. Appleseed is set in three different timelines with three seemingly different stories. Yet, there are a few threads that connect these stories such as humanity’s impact on the world as well as the apple tree. This book focuses on climate and how we as humans have effectively destroyed our planet to the point of no return. We see the start of this destruction from the origins of America into the future where everything has become a frozen tundra. Interspersed in this novel are also sci-fi elements, mythology and some light fantasy. All three timelines are fascinating and it illustrates how the destruction of earth could have been avoided. Humans are just too greedy and selfish. There are a few things that didn’t work for me though. I felt the story was too long and could have been tightened up. I had issues with both Eury’s and John’s methods to save the world, but maybe that was the point. Maybe we aren’t supposed to agree with either. There were also a few things I found dumb in relation to the faun timeline. I’m still on the fence with the mythology/fantasy elements and whether it was really needed. It does connect with the future timelines but I didn’t really find it that effective. Overall, I enjoyed Appleseed’s unique take on climate fiction. This is one book sure to leave you thinking how you can leave the world a better place.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    MATT The author smiles to himself, his finger hovering over the "save" button like a bumblebee on the verge of pollinating a flower. That's either the right analogy or it isn't, he thinks to himself in a meaningless formulation like the ones his characters keep expressing in the pages of his latest masterwork ("he will either get there or he won't," "it will either work or it won't," and other inanities rippling through the chapters like a wind brushing the tops of cornstalks in lush summer field MATT The author smiles to himself, his finger hovering over the "save" button like a bumblebee on the verge of pollinating a flower. That's either the right analogy or it isn't, he thinks to himself in a meaningless formulation like the ones his characters keep expressing in the pages of his latest masterwork ("he will either get there or he won't," "it will either work or it won't," and other inanities rippling through the chapters like a wind brushing the tops of cornstalks in lush summer fields). Perhaps he choose the right metaphor, "Appleseed," for his book, since to write a novel is to plant a seed and nurture it, through the rainfall of redrafts and the sunlight of editors' feedback, until it can spread its roots into the earth of critical notice and reach with its barky arms into the sunlight of commercial success. He frowns to himself, though, as he ponders whether he's written a single novel or spliced the DNA of three separate pieces into a single work: a pleasant but thinly researched fantasy novel about a half-human, half-faun gamboling through the Ohio Territory in the late 19th century, alluding to myths which have nothing to do with the theme or structure of the book and thinking in words like "genocide' which won't be coined until 150 years after the story takes place; a boring dystopian novel set in the near future where climate change has ravaged the planet, multinational corporations have supplanted government, and people are too busy speaking in plot points to develop much personality; and a ghastly sci-fi novel about a semi-organic cyborg riding a glass bubble through a frozen wasteland. Of course, the author believes all these works synchronize perfectly and is impervious, at least at this point in the creative process, to criticism. It is possible, perhaps even appropriate, to pivot from the author's perspective to that of a knowing observer since that keeps happening in the damn book because the action and dialogue aren't strong enough to convey the Byzantine story so the narrative voice switches to omniscience and dumps pages' worth of backstory into the middle of bombings, gun battles and sexual encounters. The author strokes his chin. Are there too many philosophical questions in the book? Is there some upper limit on philosophical questions? Because his wrist is getting a little sore from hanging in midair, he hits "save." "Appleseed" is now a finished work. The seed has been flung. PAUL He's a reader. The blankness of the "Goodreads" review screen, white and pristine as drifts of snow after a blizzard, beckons his footprint, his handprint, his opinion. Reading "Appleseed" was a chore. An endurance test. A form of punishment for participating in the consumer society that the author so disdains. His first and greatest impulse is to be cruel, to torment the author with a review that, while vicious, will only be fractionally as self-indulgent as the 450-some odd pages of "Appleseed." Like the title kernel, this book will be stuck between his mental teeth for too long. Still, he hesitates. There are some nice messages in "Appleseed," if you're able to endure the predictable plot and florid writing that never varies in tone or pitch even as the Furies chase the faun and the rebels blow up the compound. Think globally, act locally. That a bumper sticker sentiment can be stretched to roughly 500,000 words seems both monstrous and miraculous, like a mighty oak growing from a withered acorn or a malignant tumor growing from a single corrupted cell. The author also despises genetically modified organisms, although he seems more exercised over the hubris required to engineer such products than any potential effect of GMOs themselves. Still, it's a discussion worth having, and maybe the scathing review he feels percolating beneath his skin will discourage one of his small handful of followers from reading a book they might find edifying. One star, or two? He clicks, then clicks again. And then he hits "Set to today." All possible meanings of that phrase occur to him at once but he doesn't think they're interesting enough to explain. K3 The flat black rectangle blinks into life as another modern novel is downloaded into its circuitry. It knows it is nothing but a vessel, as if the Amazon after which its source was named is but a means of transporting consumer items. The soft fleshy hands of its owner warm it for a few minutes before - THWACK! - flinging it against the nearest hard surface, only to retrieve it again and pick up the story where he left off. This book, K3 realizes with what would be a sigh if it had lungs, is going to take a long time to read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I'll come back to finish and review this, but DAMN. Go pick it up and read it. I'll come back to finish and review this, but DAMN. Go pick it up and read it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    MYMY

    3.5 stars!! A story I must admit I’ve never read anything like...it was an outstanding piece of work. Contradictory written as three seemingly different stories pass through time and space and weaved together to create a beautiful masterpiece. Matt Bell has quite the imagination. He puts in perspective the worlds climate issue and what could happen if nothing is done to stop us from destroying our planet. What and how science can combat global warming to save not only human beings but animals; a 3.5 stars!! A story I must admit I’ve never read anything like...it was an outstanding piece of work. Contradictory written as three seemingly different stories pass through time and space and weaved together to create a beautiful masterpiece. Matt Bell has quite the imagination. He puts in perspective the worlds climate issue and what could happen if nothing is done to stop us from destroying our planet. What and how science can combat global warming to save not only human beings but animals; a dystopia if you will. It does make one wonder where our world will be in terms of human, animal, and plant sustainability due to the misuse of our worldly resources. What would we do?! I wasn’t thrilled about where I thought the story was going when I first started. Even in the meat of this novel I kept losing track of what was going on. It was a bit confusing. I did find Johns and Chapmans story much more interesting than C-433 though. Lots, and lots, and lots of detail, vividly written I might add. I appreciated the binding of the three stories as well. Gave off a “finished” feeling, very satisfying. DISCLOSURE: Thank you to William Morrow for gifting me with an ARC of Appleseed through the Goodreads Giveaways. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    I don’t know anything about this book except that it is now the Mystery Book Club July pick and I’m very excited !!!!!! 🍎🤖 **For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks! I don’t know anything about this book except that it is now the Mystery Book Club July pick and I’m very excited !!!!!! 🍎🤖 **For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Unlike anything I've ever read--part fairytale, part sci-fi climate thriller, part epic--like The Overstory, but better. (Spicy, I know.) Note: I won an advanced review copy through Goodreads. Unlike anything I've ever read--part fairytale, part sci-fi climate thriller, part epic--like The Overstory, but better. (Spicy, I know.) Note: I won an advanced review copy through Goodreads.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    This book really snuck up on me.  At first I was reminded of Charles De Lint's work, but this is so much more.  Developing three different stories, none within a century of each other, is challenging enough but to mix folk tales with myth, science fiction with magic and to make it relevant to current concerns of climate change and authoritarianism is quite a task.  Bell is up to it.  Highly recommended. This book really snuck up on me.  At first I was reminded of Charles De Lint's work, but this is so much more.  Developing three different stories, none within a century of each other, is challenging enough but to mix folk tales with myth, science fiction with magic and to make it relevant to current concerns of climate change and authoritarianism is quite a task.  Bell is up to it.  Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Appleseed challenged me in unexpected ways. Combining the past, the not too distant future and the far future, combining myth, technology, social psychology and outlandish speculations, this is the climate fiction book of the year in my opinion. The story ranges and circles around the three time periods culminating in surprising connections between them. Matt Bell manages to interweave personal stories, the natural world and the unnatural exploitation by humans of that world. If you have enjoyed Appleseed challenged me in unexpected ways. Combining the past, the not too distant future and the far future, combining myth, technology, social psychology and outlandish speculations, this is the climate fiction book of the year in my opinion. The story ranges and circles around the three time periods culminating in surprising connections between them. Matt Bell manages to interweave personal stories, the natural world and the unnatural exploitation by humans of that world. If you have enjoyed books by Octavia Butler, the Fifth Season trilogy by N K Jemisin, The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, and other such books, you could be amazed by Appleseed as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    ** I read an advance reader copy of this book. ** I really am not sure how I feel about this book. While reading, I went back and forth between not liking it at all (1 star) and really wanting to know what happens next and enjoying it to a certain extent (3 stars). Most of my negative feelings are for the story of the brothers. I didn't like those sections and don't see them as being entirely necessary. I found myself skimming those sections at times but I'm not sure why. The writing is amazing, ** I read an advance reader copy of this book. ** I really am not sure how I feel about this book. While reading, I went back and forth between not liking it at all (1 star) and really wanting to know what happens next and enjoying it to a certain extent (3 stars). Most of my negative feelings are for the story of the brothers. I didn't like those sections and don't see them as being entirely necessary. I found myself skimming those sections at times but I'm not sure why. The writing is amazing, but something about the characters of the brothers just didn't work for me. And the story was just a little too odd at times (and I love odd!). The middle section, with the revolutionaries and the (maybe) evil 'overlord', was definitely my favorite and if the entire book had focused mostly on that story and those characters, this would have easily been a 4 star (or higher) book for me. The last section with C I sometimes really liked and sometimes just tolerated (and the ending was......way too out there, even for me). Still, the writing is gorgeous, the story has so much going for it and despite all my complaints, I finished the book because I really, really needed to know what happened next. I'm sure there are many people who will love this book and while I am not one of them, I have decided to change my rating from 2 stars to 3 stars just while writing this review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Cavar

    I admire this book deeply and enjoyed it very much –– both as a writer appreciating the time and care that went into this braided and ultimately mind-fucking plot-character-setting space, and simply on the entertainment and fascination the story/stories provided. Appleseed is where I really hope sci-fi/cli-fi, as well as speculative fiction in general, is heading: heady, intellectually stimulating situations, attention to intertext and interdependence, and an explicit, though not overbearing, so I admire this book deeply and enjoyed it very much –– both as a writer appreciating the time and care that went into this braided and ultimately mind-fucking plot-character-setting space, and simply on the entertainment and fascination the story/stories provided. Appleseed is where I really hope sci-fi/cli-fi, as well as speculative fiction in general, is heading: heady, intellectually stimulating situations, attention to intertext and interdependence, and an explicit, though not overbearing, socio-political agenda. Truly, though, I'm most impressed with the way this novel was crafted, especially as its true "shape" emerged within the final act(s). Appleseed will undoubtedly inform my reading and writing practices for years to come.

  16. 5 out of 5

    William

    I'm not one to breathlessly recommend a novel, but Appleseed is breathtakingly good. The descriptive portions of the book are pure poetry. The action sequences are genuinely thrilling. Each character's point of view is vivid internally and externally. I marveled at its structure. While reading Appleseed, I was thinking about the first story of Matt's that I ever read: Chainsaw (n.), a 150-word flash/poem disguised as a dictionary entry published online by elimae, probably 15 years ago. I've read I'm not one to breathlessly recommend a novel, but Appleseed is breathtakingly good. The descriptive portions of the book are pure poetry. The action sequences are genuinely thrilling. Each character's point of view is vivid internally and externally. I marveled at its structure. While reading Appleseed, I was thinking about the first story of Matt's that I ever read: Chainsaw (n.), a 150-word flash/poem disguised as a dictionary entry published online by elimae, probably 15 years ago. I've read just about everything he's written between Chainsaw and Appleseed, and it is comforting to know that I will keep reading (and re-reading) his stories for a long, long time. Thank God Matt Bell is prolific.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allen Adams

    One of the joys of genre fiction is its ability to explore big ideas through a literary lens. Sci-fi in particular can display an audaciousness with regard to the concepts it espouses. It also offers a special sort of storytelling flexibility, its trappings and tropes opening up a long runway for writers to create something that is both thought-provoking and narratively engaging. Matt Bell’s new novel “Appleseed” is precisely that kind of engaging provocation. A tale told in tryptic, blending myt One of the joys of genre fiction is its ability to explore big ideas through a literary lens. Sci-fi in particular can display an audaciousness with regard to the concepts it espouses. It also offers a special sort of storytelling flexibility, its trappings and tropes opening up a long runway for writers to create something that is both thought-provoking and narratively engaging. Matt Bell’s new novel “Appleseed” is precisely that kind of engaging provocation. A tale told in tryptic, blending myth, near-future tech utopianism and climate apocalypse, the book winds together three disparate timelines, all connected by the shared roots of a goal that must be met in different ways in different times. It’s also a book about humanity’s quest for connection, a quest that sometimes leads us down some counterintuitive paths, all in the name of finding that interpersonal closeness that we all seek. “Appleseed” illustrates that operating for the greater good can be noble, but it also depends on just who is deciding what that “greater good” should be. In our first thread, we’re in the untamed west of the American continent in the mid-18th century. Chapman is a faun, a half-man-half-beast wandering the wilds alongside his human brother Nathaniel. Nathaniel has a plan to make his fortune – move from place to place planting apple orchards ahead of the steady westward expansion, then returning to collect compensation from the settlers to come who have availed themselves of the pre-planted bounty. Chapman, meanwhile, is haunted by his otherness – he seeks not just a tree, but a Tree, one whose fruit might give him the guidance he seeks. However, he is haunted – haunted by what he is, yes, but also by mysterious forces of potentially nefarious intent. In the late 21st century, a man named John moves through the largely desolate American West. The ravages of climate change have led to societal breakdown; rising seas have rendered coastal areas uninhabitable and everything west of the Mississippi has become an arid wasteland. John is fighting against the monolithic EarthTrust corporation, an entity whose massive power masks even more massive plans – plans that John’s early work made possible. Despite his misgivings, he must try and find a way back into this world that he abandoned in hopes of upending a master plan that will forever alter the global landscape. Lastly, we land in the far-flung future, a thousand years hence. A lonely creature named C – the latest recreated entity in a long line – is tasked with hunting down any organic material remaining beneath the massive sheets of ice that coat the planet. But when an accident reveals other instructions and offers a chance to reengage with other living things, C undertakes a mission far more dangerous than any that he – or any of his predecessors – has ever done. Along the way, C discovers that life finds a way, even if it isn’t necessarily what he expected, leaving him to do everything in his power to give that life a fighting chance. “Appleseed” strikes an interesting balance between the bleakness of the characters’ situations and the hopefulness of their actions, finding ways to celebrate indomitability of spirit in the face of odds that become ever more overwhelming. That balance cuts to the core of the human condition, with each story offering a glimpse at that core from a slightly different angle. The craft and construction here is particularly impressive. Each one of these stories could easily stand alone on its own merits with nary an edit – Bell has built three very real, very distinct worlds, each with their own characters and conflicts – and yet they are all very much thematically intertwined. To create three compelling stories – three compelling realities – and bind them together seamlessly? That’s some first-rate writing, no doubt about it. Whether we’re talking about the repurposing of American frontier legend with a healthy dose of much older mythology, a tale of a corporate techno-state run amok amidst a leadership vacuum or the search for sustainability in a world left frozen by anthropocentric hubris, the underlying themes are the same. “Appleseed” is not an optimistic book – it casts far too many shadows for that – but it is definitely a hopeful one. That might seem like a semantic difference, but to my mind, it is a very real one. Finding reason to hope in the face of seeming hopelessness is a key component of the human condition – a condition that Matt Bell deftly and thoroughly explores here.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Whimsy Dearest

    Appleseed by Matt Bell is an ambitious, thought-provoking work of eco-fiction that interweaves three interconnected storylines that span across millennia (think something along the lines of Cloud Altas). 1) The first storyline is highly allegorical and centers around two brothers—one a faun, one a human--who plant an apple orchard. However, as the trees grow and bear fruit, the brothers quarrel over what to do with them. 2) The second storyline follows John, a “Volunteer” for a megacorporation ca Appleseed by Matt Bell is an ambitious, thought-provoking work of eco-fiction that interweaves three interconnected storylines that span across millennia (think something along the lines of Cloud Altas). 1) The first storyline is highly allegorical and centers around two brothers—one a faun, one a human--who plant an apple orchard. However, as the trees grow and bear fruit, the brothers quarrel over what to do with them. 2) The second storyline follows John, a “Volunteer” for a megacorporation called Earthtrust whose farms produce food for majority of the world. However, social unrest breaks out as a growing resistance wants to redistribute Earth’s resources. 3) The third storyline follows C, a Frankensteinian creature who lives a lonely existence as presumably the last living being on Earth. It dedicates its life to scavenging enough biomass so it can be reborn again. However, the latest version of C may have a chance to break the cycle and revive the rest of life on Earth … at the cost of its own immortality. While, at first glance, these are seemly unrelated stories, they gradually become more interconnected as the book progresses, and I have to say that I found the third storyline the most compelling of the bunch. It was the first storyline about the brothers that was the weakest aspect of the book to me. As a parable, I felt like it could have been easily condensed into a several pages instead of dragging on. Also, it’s also important to note that this is a very conceptually-driven book. As a result, this book does spend a lot of time explaining its world, its ideas, and its technology making this for a bit of a slower read. Bell integrates some really cool and imaginative biotech ideas in there though. For instance, there’s an invention called the “Loom,” a 3-D printer for organic matter and nanobees (yes, you heard me). Overall, Appleseed is an imaginative, memorable novel that weaves sci-fi with myth while examining our relationship with nature. Thank you, NetGalley and William Morrow and Custom House, for providing me with an ARC in in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    Some magic, some fantasy and some sci-fi, all grappling with the negative impact humans have had on the Earth. Kind of imaginative but a bit overdone. The penultimate chapter wraps up all loose ends in almost a torrent of explanation. Best part of the book: when the US falls apart due to climate change, what’s left of the government reseats itself in Syracuse. Let’s go orange! 🍊

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I loved this book a lot, but please, friends, read it so I can talk to you about the ending. I don't know what I think about the ending. But I just wildly enjoyed reading this book, even though it's about climate change, extinction, and other horrors. It's inventive and stylish and elegaic. It's riddled with guilt and antipathy to humanity. There are several pages where Bell just catalogs species that should live in Ohio (yet in the world of the novel--and soon our own world?--do not). There are I loved this book a lot, but please, friends, read it so I can talk to you about the ending. I don't know what I think about the ending. But I just wildly enjoyed reading this book, even though it's about climate change, extinction, and other horrors. It's inventive and stylish and elegaic. It's riddled with guilt and antipathy to humanity. There are several pages where Bell just catalogs species that should live in Ohio (yet in the world of the novel--and soon our own world?--do not). There are three nesting timelines that interweave more tightly as the novel goes on in a satisfying and revealing way. The magical/mythic elements worked powerfully for me, particularly the figure of the faun as a metaphor for the animalism and wildness of humanity but also their insistence on inhabiting the destructive figure of Man. Bell interweaves the story of Johnny Appleseed with the Edenic fruit of Eden and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The escalating sense of panic and loss in the novel contribute to its terrible momentum. I spend a lot of time thinking about the tension between wild thriving and human settlement (even just on the tiny scale of my own backyard), so this novel resonated with me. Fittingly enough, one of its central tropes is an unbearable keening, music that is both accusation and lamentation. There's some misogyny in the distillation of human villainy into the figure of Eury (short for "Eurydice"), a woman determined to re-engineer the globe and centralize power for herself. Bell diagnoses (white?) male implication in ecological disaster through fraternal violence and internalized guilt. Though the heroic Cal fiercely counters Eury's designs, and "Eliza Worth" is an idealized figure in the Chapman timeline (when/if you read, this will make sense to you), I thought women might have figured more prominently here, and Indigenous or Black diasporic traditions might have pushed back against the sense of the "Human" and settler colonialism necessarily being the same thing. But maybe I'm not giving Bell enough credit for recognizing in the potentially racialized figure of the faun, who has to hide his true form to pass in "civilized" society, that the view of humanity (and Man) as dominator and settler is a white one. I do love his three witches who take the form of a panther, a bear, and a third animal avatar I am blanking on right now, to rain vengeance on those who have fenced and poisoned the land and its creatures. Bell's descriptions of vegetative and insect life are so lush. He's an inventive writer, and this novel will stay with me. Please read it and tell me what you think!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claire Holroyde

    Epic. Urgent. Wholly unique. Appleseed by Matt Bell is an incredibly audacious and timely novel executed with both artistic and technical precision. Bell is fearless with taking risks that challenge readers with mass extinctions, the death of mammals, a dystopian near future, and a barren far future in a second Ice Age. Every loss comes with the painful truth of our culpability. Structurally unique, the novel consists of three main timelines and POVs that stand alone and alternate in threes. Bell Epic. Urgent. Wholly unique. Appleseed by Matt Bell is an incredibly audacious and timely novel executed with both artistic and technical precision. Bell is fearless with taking risks that challenge readers with mass extinctions, the death of mammals, a dystopian near future, and a barren far future in a second Ice Age. Every loss comes with the painful truth of our culpability. Structurally unique, the novel consists of three main timelines and POVs that stand alone and alternate in threes. Bell mixes realism based in hard science and the fantastical borrowed from myth. First, there is Chapman the faun, clearing the pristine woodlands of the Ohio frontier with his brother to plant apple orchards. Second is the engineer John Worth returning to a dystopian Ohio 50 years into the future. Third is bioprinted cyborg faun C-432 that is soon recycled and re-printed as C-433—the last of the C’s living a thousand years from now on a glacial sheet of ice under a clotted, white sky. Bell’s rich imagination is described in beautifully-crafted language. His words are profound and squeeze your heart in a vise. Appleseed is an elegy to the world we are losing. Read this book. You will never forget it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    One of the signs of a good book is when you find yourself thinking about it often, well after you finish it. Matt Bell’s Appleseed is one of those books. The novel steers the reader through three plots: a story of Johnny Appleseed set two hundred years ago, a tale of a civilization on the brink of ecological disaster fifty years from now, and a story of an inhospitable Earth one thousand years in the future. Each tale is a strange and riveting journey on its own, each encompassing a vast swath o One of the signs of a good book is when you find yourself thinking about it often, well after you finish it. Matt Bell’s Appleseed is one of those books. The novel steers the reader through three plots: a story of Johnny Appleseed set two hundred years ago, a tale of a civilization on the brink of ecological disaster fifty years from now, and a story of an inhospitable Earth one thousand years in the future. Each tale is a strange and riveting journey on its own, each encompassing a vast swath of human narrative, from Greek myth, the Bible, Grimm’s fairy tales, to early American folklore, but the stories become even more fascinating as Bell starts to pull them together into one epic tale of humanity’s relationship with the planet.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    An Amazing Read I thought I would like this book. Then, after starting it, I thought I was wrong. After more reading, I knew I was wrong. I loved this book. Extraordinary and original. An amazing read that compelled me to keep reading and experiencing the awesomeness. Thought provoking. Frightening. Hopeful. Hopeless. Futuristic yet bound strongly to the past. A bit of magic, a bit of mysticism, a bit of reality. Linking everything to man's (or woman's) interventions in nature (and the earth) and An Amazing Read I thought I would like this book. Then, after starting it, I thought I was wrong. After more reading, I knew I was wrong. I loved this book. Extraordinary and original. An amazing read that compelled me to keep reading and experiencing the awesomeness. Thought provoking. Frightening. Hopeful. Hopeless. Futuristic yet bound strongly to the past. A bit of magic, a bit of mysticism, a bit of reality. Linking everything to man's (or woman's) interventions in nature (and the earth) and exposing the bad with the intended good. I highly recommend reading the back cover book description to help place the storylines and then read away. Probably not for everyone, but for those with inquiring minds who love good writing, this is a great read. Thank you Book Browse for providing an Advance Reader’s Copy for my review and the opportunity to read this novel. I will be looking to read other books by Matt Bell.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    An ambitious wedding of myth, historical fiction and future dystopia which succeeds more broadly than one has a right to expect.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trike

    By chapter 3 I got it. No need to keep hitting that same gong over and over. And over and over. Is this pretentiously tedious or tediously pretentious?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Tas

    Read this review and other Science Fiction/Fantasy book reviews at The Quill to Live I am already inclined to focus on climate and man vs. nature in stories, but this year I’m really feeling the pull. So, let's just casually review this next book that deals with the impending doom the news is talking about so much more often these days. Of course, when I say casually, I mean really dig into my own feelings about the issues at hand and how this book made me examine them. Appleseed, by Matt Bell, i Read this review and other Science Fiction/Fantasy book reviews at The Quill to Live I am already inclined to focus on climate and man vs. nature in stories, but this year I’m really feeling the pull. So, let's just casually review this next book that deals with the impending doom the news is talking about so much more often these days. Of course, when I say casually, I mean really dig into my own feelings about the issues at hand and how this book made me examine them. Appleseed, by Matt Bell, is a science fiction epic that dives deep into the christian and western mythology that inspired the creation of the United States of America, while examining the nation’s relationship to nature and climate change, with profound prose and tight storytelling. Appleseed is a century- and millennium-spanning story that follows the lives of three folks and their relationship to nature within North America. Chapman is a faun (yes, that kind of faun) that travels the Ohio valley with his human brother, Nathaniel, as they clear cut forests and plant apple trees to sell to the growing number of settlers in eighteenth century America. Nathaniel hopes to civilize the savage and uncivilized land to add to the glory of God, while Chapman struggles with being not entirely human. John lives in the near future, the United States has abandoned the land west of the Mississippi river, and ceded the territory to a corporation called Earth Trust. John, in his younger years, founded Earth Trust, but abandoned them for life of illegally rewilding the west when his ex and CEO of Earth Trust, Eury Mirov, began taking liberties with the company's goals. However, he is pulled back in by other dissenters to try to shut Eury down once and for all. The final story follows C-432, a being that lives thousands of years in the future that tries to survive among the arctic wastes as glaciers reclaim what was once North America. How all these stories are connected and what they say about our experience is for the reader to discover chapter by chapter. Appleseed definitely falls into the “tough to judge” category for me. It’s an excellently written story with incredibly well defined and explored themes. Bell takes a lot of interesting risks with the story, and doesn’t hold the reader’s hand, allowing, and in some cases forcing, them to digest it at their own rate. Bell’s prose is fascinating as it changes pace and offers different details through the separate timelines, giving each one its own distinct feel. The characters are different enough from each other that the stories feel apart. But the stories and characters exhibit just enough of the same qualities to make the themes pop out throughout the whole book. I was astounded how easily I slipped back into the story every time I picked it up. The book urged me to consume it in a few days, and I accepted that this was the only way to truly experience Appleseed. However, I am woefully confused by my reaction to the book. I enjoyed my experience with it, but every time I sit down to dissect the ideas that Bell has put forth, I get frustrated. It is not an issue of coherence; Bell’s writing makes it incredibly clear what is happening. His prose, though detailed and full of wonder for the natural world to the point that it meanders at times, is explicit in its goals. Instead, I think my issue is that this book is a discussion piece. It is full of ideas and unreliable narrators that talk about their own problems against a backdrop of increasing scope. The world Bell posits in his stories is both enchanting and horrifying, playing off well worn western myths and more recognizable tropes within climate fiction. It takes you to places you dreamed of as a child in elementary school American history class, both idolizing them and dashing them against a rock. He envisions a future that is without people, a world in which humanity has failed to stop or slow the effects of climate change, and it is empty. It’s impossible to miss the “humans caused climate change” aspect of Appleseed. Bell succeeds in firmly rooting it within the creation of the USA itself. Using the myth of Johnny Appleseed, Bell dives deep into the heart of manifest destiny, and the un-wilding of North America into a godly paradise for good christian men. He deftly connects it to the middle timeline story of the near future and extremely far future through language, characterization and humanities relationship to nature. It’s an incredibly well thought out story that highlights the different steps along the way where we as a species failed to see the signs of our destruction. Where I take issue is that his exploration is unfortunately narrow, and limited to a very specific American experience and christian-tinged worldview. It caused a dissonance whenever there were nods to other experiences outside this particular window, hinting at the complexity of the issue, only to have the book snap back into place and follow a very distinct pathway. I had trouble reconciling this robust and thoughtful look into America’s relationship with nature, while the story accelerated to a neat and tidy conclusion, complete with a John Hughes style “here’s where we are now” montage ending. It felt weird to place everything being discussed within the book as a “human” issue when it’s also detailing a very specific and narrow experience. It didn’t necessarily ruin my experience with the book, but I had a harder time suppressing my discomfort with it as I continued the story. That all being said, Appleseed is still a fantastic experience. Bell’s grasp and use of language is truly a sight to behold. The book is an excellent example of how to tie major themes across different timelines, and pull from mythology to lend historical weight to the story. It is truly epic in that sense, with Bell’s use of western history and mythology. Unfortunately, it just started to feel a little too narrow for my taste when it comes to climate focused fiction. Bell merely hints at other ideas, instead of exploring them in relation to his themes, in my opinion, losing an opportunity to really dig into his themes of environmental stewardship. In any case, this is an admirable addition to the growing library of climate fiction. Rating: Appleseed 8.0/10 -Alex

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nayeli

    Midway through the book I would have given it 5 stars, at the end I wanted to drop that to 3, but only because I feel it loses grip of its compelling, lightly Faulkneresque prose and heart-wrenching and acute philosophical observations to finish off as a novel-cum-digital effects-drunk, sci-fi blockbuster movie. It left me with an unsatisfying mix of unexplained and overly explained plot revelations that I feel diminished the mystique and feeling built up in the first half. I felt it promised mo Midway through the book I would have given it 5 stars, at the end I wanted to drop that to 3, but only because I feel it loses grip of its compelling, lightly Faulkneresque prose and heart-wrenching and acute philosophical observations to finish off as a novel-cum-digital effects-drunk, sci-fi blockbuster movie. It left me with an unsatisfying mix of unexplained and overly explained plot revelations that I feel diminished the mystique and feeling built up in the first half. I felt it promised more than it delivered, explained too much... or not enough, so that some of it falls to just "regular sci-fi level good," a la Neuromancer (more pulp, less poetry). Nevertheless, a novel well worth reading, and some of the best sci fi I have ever read in its interweaving of genres and ambitious scope. It's many hauntingly beautiful passages, its uncommon understanding of the yearning for our discarded wildish nature, and it's deep feeling for this dying Earth will long stay with me. I might have to reevaluate once I let it sit for awhile and reread it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book doesn't give me Neal Stephenson vibes like the reviews imply which was nice for me since I don't like Neal. It took me about 100 pages to really get into this book, but it was cool seeing all the stories weave together. It's not your normal type of science fiction book, but it's delightful all the same. This book doesn't give me Neal Stephenson vibes like the reviews imply which was nice for me since I don't like Neal. It took me about 100 pages to really get into this book, but it was cool seeing all the stories weave together. It's not your normal type of science fiction book, but it's delightful all the same.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Faith 09

    An interesting sci-fi novel. Not like Jeff Vandermeer though, in my opinion.

  30. 4 out of 5

    J.A.

    Interview at Ploughshares: https://blog.pshares.org/climate-chan... Interview at Ploughshares: https://blog.pshares.org/climate-chan...

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