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The Sowing by K. Makansi

The Sowing

by K. Makansi

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Full review forthcoming pending the release of all the installments. For now--this is a thoughtful, tightly-plotted post-apocalyptic thriller with likable, complex characters. It's apposite without being preachy. Definitely worth your while. ( )
  9inchsnails | Mar 7, 2016 |
My original The Sowing audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

The Sowing by K. Makansi is the first novel in a trilogy called Seeds. The story follows two young adults, Remy Alexander and Valerian Orlean, who are on two different political sides of the Okarian Sector government in a post-apocalyptic world. After years of wars and famine, the world has finally stabilized and the government has a tight control over the food production with the hope of ensuring the continued survival of the human race. Remy Alexander and her family fled the Okarian Sector to join the Resistance when her sister was murdered. The Resistance works to find against the control the Okarian Sector political elite have over the population. Valerian Orlean is the son of two leaders of the Okarian Sector. As Valerian works to protect the Sector and its ideals, he must fight against the Resistance and Remy, the girl he once loved.

This is a great novel. The world building is seemingly effortless. While it seems like a natural issue in a post-apocalyptic world, I haven’t come across a novel focused on food and seed production before. I also really like that there was a lot of focus on the science. It is well explained and distributed in dialogue throughout the novel, so it’s not confusing. The characters, especially Remy and Valerian, had natural voices, which made it easy to relate to them and to like them. While focused on two main points of view, each of the characters has a diverse group of friends and colleagues that create a great dynamic to dialogue and activity throughout the novel. The banter among the character groups was comfortable, believable, and well-paced. Similarly, the plot has a great distribution of action and explanations. The end comes has a good stopping point in the story, but leaves the plot open for the next novel.

The narration by Ivy Tara Blair is excellent. The characters are well voiced and distinguishable. The voices also seemed aged well. The teenagers sounded like teenagers without having the worst kind of whiny teenage voices. The production quality is also great as well. I would recommend this novel to another who likes a young adult science based post-apocalyptic story.

Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Feb 19, 2016 |
Disclosure: I received this book as a review copy. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

The Sowing, the first book in the Seeds trilogy, is a young adult work of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction in which agricultural policy is the tool that ruling elite of the Okarian Agricultural Consortium use to impose their will upon their fellow citizens without most of them even knowing it. Against this nefarious ruling elite is pitted a tiny but determined Resistance whose members are desperately trying to solve a secret code that holds the key to topple the oppressive regime. Oddly, both the ruling Okarian elite and the members of the Resistance are drawn from the same social circle, leaving the downtrodden farmers and the shadowy outsiders mostly out of the picture.

The novel shifts between two main viewpoint characters. Remy is a member of the Resistance, living in difficult conditions, separated from her parents while enduring the tough regime of training to be a guerrilla fighter with inadequate food, shelter, or equipment. Not only that, the opening pages of the book detail the pivotal event that caused her family to leave their lives in Okarian society and join the Resistance: The brutal murder of Remy's older sister Tai and the rest of her class as they were in the middle of a lecture on DNA synthesis. Vale, on the other hand, is comfortably ensconced in the elite of Okarian society, and although his position in the Okarian military means that he has to endure rigorous training, he is otherwise comfortable and showered with all of the necessary and unnecessary comforts of life. The contrast between Remy and her circle of young Resistance members and Vale and his crowd of friends and hangers-on is made murky by the fact that prior to her sister's murder, Remy was part of Vale's social circle, and the two were even somewhat linked romantically.

The book is, in large part, carried by this shifting viewpoint which illustrates both the stark contrasts and disturbing similarities between the lives and Remy and Vale live, and where their outlook on the world differs and converges. And the early part of the book needs this, because one minor weakness of the novel is that the dystopian nature of the Okarian Agricultural Consortium is not readily apparent. We are told that the senior members of the Okarian government were behind the attack that killed Tai, and that Remy's parents spend their time educating workers on the Consortium farms of the dangers their government poses to them, but we aren't really told what those dangers are, or what secret someone would arrange to kill a classroom full of college students to protect until well into the book. As a result, it is somewhat difficult to understand the nature of the conflict or what is at stake. Eventually the perfidy is revealed: The Okarian elite have implemented a program in which they have, via genetic engineering, manipulated the diet of the populace so that those on the farms become stupid and strong, while the privileged elite eat food that is designed to make them more intelligent.

But that revelation is fairly deep into the story, and in the mean time, the reader is able to get acquainted with the two main characters and the cast that surrounds each of them. Each story line involves the central characters chasing down a separate goal, with Remy attempting to unravel a piece of encoded DNA left behind by one of her former professors and Vale assigned to plan and lead a mission to capture Elijah Tawfiq, a key member of the Resistance. As might be expected, these two separate plot lines are on a collision course, and eventually Remy and Vale are reunited, although under less than ideal circumstances. At that point, their stories intertwine briefly, and then each character's story then diverges again, with Vale's trajectory, at least, changed fundamentally by their meeting.

One interesting element to the story is that neither Remy or Vale seem much interested in the larger political issues in which they are embroiled. Remy's primary motivation to join the Resistance seems to be the murder of her sister. Vale's primary motivation to excel in his military position seems to be a wish not to disappoint his parents. In fact, until deep into the story, Vale seems completely perplexed as to why anyone would choose to join the Resistance, a stance that betrays a severe lack of self-reflection on his part. This similarity highlights one of the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Because almost all of the main characters are drawn from the same social circle of members or former members of the favored elite of the Consortium, there is a kind of bland similarity to the characters and how they view the world. The books has no character who represents the view of the mysterious "Outsiders" until well into its pages, and even that character is only relatively briefly on stage - and is on stage in such a way that really doesn't provide the reader with any substantial information about who the Outsiders are, or what they might want. Similarly, there are almost no characters from the Consortium's farming communities, and the ones who are in the book don't show up until very near to the novel's end. The Sowing is, in some ways, similar to what one would get if you changed all of the viewpoint characters in The Hunger Games to teens from the Capitol.

In one sense, this singularly focused set of viewpoints is a weakness for The Sowing, as the characters attitudes towards the world around them has something of a monochrome aspect. However, this myopic set of viewpoints also works to the story's advantage, as it becomes apparent that everyone represented in the book share some fairly gaping blind spots concerning the world in which they live. Because all of the characters who are ostensibly on "both sides" of the conflict operate under a common set of assumptions, they, and by extension the reader, can be taken by surprise when they encounter a character who doesn't share those assumptions. And once the reader realizes that the conflict as presented is essentially an intra-family dispute between two halves of a single formerly close-knit social circle, the revolutionary nature of the Resistance seems to be somewhat questionable. While life might be somewhat better for the workers on the Consortium's farms should the Resistance prevail, no one seems to have even bothered to consult them on what they might want. And no matter which side wins, things are likely to remain the same for the Outsiders. The realization that the "revolutionaries" don't seem to have really considered interests other than their own gives this book substantially more depth than many other works of young adult dystopian fiction, and provides the possibility of a stronger, richer story in future installments.

Despite the somewhat monochromatic nature of the central characters, they are all likable in the way that only naive, idealistic youths can be. Though the story in the novel presents a fairly simple conflict between heroic freedom fighters and callous tyrants, the elusive hints of a larger and more complex conflict are what raise the novel above the ordinary. In the somewhat crowded field of young adult dystopian fiction, The Sowing is well-ahead of most others, and will be sure to entertain and intrigue anyone who enjoys this genre.

This review has also been posted on my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
  StormRaven | Jul 7, 2014 |
To satisfy my chocolate itch, I’ve shopped the candy aisles thinking, “huh, that looks like a good one, but chocolate is chocolate…it really doesn’t matter, just as long as I get some.” Oh contraire! Choosing just the right brand of yum to achieve a chocolate fix makes all the difference in the world, and also, incidentally, aligned with my assumptions when it came to reading The Sowing by the Makansi mother-daughter writing trio. This addition to the dystopian genre packed a punch that woke me up to the realization that not all chocolate (or dystopian novels) are created equal.

The strongest part of the book? The very first bite! Rarely do stories immediately suck the reader into the thick of things, but the Makansis do so in the prologue by getting us to love Tai within a couple of pages…then killing her off in a school shooting! What. The. Hell?!? Are you kidding me?! The amazing work of the authors, however, lies in the fact they are able to create a ripple effect through the rest of the novel, with Tai haunting the storyline and characters throughout the rest of the novel. The genealogy of both the younger and adult characters is also engaging; the reader is not dealing with two or three people the same age from one or two families, but rather, relationships are layered through jobs, politics, and family—both close and extended. What’s even better? It’s not confusing. At. All. There was no need of a complex glossary of characters because everything was smooth; it kept me involved, challenging my thought process, while in the meantime, not frying my brain to the point where I couldn’t keep up with what the hell was going on with the twisted helix, double strands, and genome sequencing.

Oh! And that’s the other cool thing about this read. It tackles a completely new and relevant topic to what’s happening in our own society. Food! With all the talk about GMOs, it’s fabulous to see the theories in action; best of all, the science is explained in a manner that any supermarket shopper can understand, as told through the lens of Remy, the main heroine. The dual narrative between the main characters of Remy and Vale is sharp and lends a dichotomy that is not to be missed. Get on down to the store and taste this dystopian treat, peeps! ( )
  ChocolitChick | Mar 31, 2014 |
Remy's sister was killed along with her classmates. It was a massacre in the classroom. Yet somehow, Remy survived. Now years later, Remy has come back on the grid. She was hiding out with the Resistance. Yet all this time Remy has not forgotten her sister. She suspects that the killing was set up but for what reason?

Valerian aka Vale Orlean is the leader on the other side. He has been put in charge with finding the members of the Resistance and stopping them. However it is not as easy as it seems when Vale has feelings for Remy.

I am all about dystopia books. Which is what I would classify this book to be. So if you are into this type of genre or just looking for something new to read then you should check out this book. It is written by a family team of a mother and her daughters. If I had not been told that this book was written by several people then I would have never known. You can not tell where one left off and the next one picked up.

The characters and the world that this series is based around is what I enjoy about these types of books. It was like I could see everything as if I was living in the world with Remy and her friends.

While I am on Remy's side 100%, I have to say that the other side is not so bad as well. Especially when the other side has Vale. He is fighting for what he believes in to, even if he may be fighting for the wrong side. The action was not in your face but it was there some. This book is more about telling about the world and the characters all leading up to book two. Which I can not wait to read. The Sowing will have you on the edge of your seat. This book could be the next Hunger Games or Ender's Game! ( )
  Cherylk | Feb 27, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0989867110, Paperback)

After Remy Alexander's older sister is murdered in a cold-blooded massacre, her family discovers the Okarian Sector is hiding the truth behind the attack. Remy and her parents flee the Sector to join the clandestine Resistance movement. Now, three years later, Remy and her friends are convinced they've found a clue that can help them unravel the mystery behind the murders and expose the secrets behind the Sector's use of genetically modified food. But back home in the Sector, Valerian Orlean, the boy Remy once thought she loved, is put in charge of hunting and destroying the Resistance. Even as Vale strives to live up to his parent's expectations, he is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Remy and is determined to find out why she disappeared. As Remy seeks justice for her sister and Vale seeks to protect the Sector and everything he believes in, the two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together-or tear everything apart. Writing as K. Makansi, the mother-daughter writing team of Kristina, Amira, and Elena Makansi immerses readers in the post-apocalyptic world of the Okarian Sector where romance, enduring friendships, edge-of-your-seat action, and heart-wrenching betrayal will decide the fate of a nation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:31 -0400)

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