A review by meshell
Seeds for the Swarm by Sim Kern

adventurous informative inspiring medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


I stayed up until the middle of the night reading Seeds for the Swarm. I feel like it’s one of those books that you can hungrily finish in an afternoon, if it catches your interest as it did mine. 

I liked the premise and the themes explored in this YA cli-fi novel. It's highly readable, but occasionally a bit instructive at times. There were only a few points at which I felt the educational aspect was a bit heavy handed, but I didn’t feel like they distracted me too much from the story. 

Rylla, is the main protagonist, she’s a “Dust State” dwelling person (“a dustie”) on the cusp of adulthood. The story begins with water recycling issues, and sets the stage for a dry, dirty, and dismal potential future. Rylla wants to go to university to hopefully escape or improve her circumstances but poverty may not allow for it - she’s looking at working for the very oil refineries she’s against. But after staging a one-woman protest, she goes viral (albeit not for the reason she would have wanted) and as a result, is invited to the kind of “Lush State” university she was dreaming of, all expenses paid. 

I enjoyed the exploration of “Dust state” vs “Lush State,” and it wasn't cut and dry as to who the villains and heroes were. I did not know where this story was going to go when starting out. There were several imperfect unlikeable characters, which worked quite well for this novel, there were moments of mutual awkwardness and misunderstanding, where the Lush State wasn’t entirely a woke paradise, and the Dustie wasn’t always the backwards bumpkin. I would have liked to get to know some of the other characters better, but perhaps that will be something for future books. 

There are several opportunities to reexamine your initial assumptions about a character or a group, and I think that was done very well too. 

I found the handling of addiction a bit disappointing, considering the futuristic setting, and the technological advancements the Lush State potentially had at its disposal - it felt a bit too willpower and shame based for this so-called advanced society - but I did like the somewhat attempt at a community responsibility model.

Loved the queer rep, it felt genuine and not just haphazardly placed.

Criticisms aside, there are a lot of interesting ideas presented here, the story is solid and inventive, and has a lot of adventurous reading potential. I am eager to read the next book in the series and find out what happens to Rylla and the rest of the crew in the rest of the trilogy. 

I got to read this as a Digital ARC thanks to Netgalley and Stelliform Press. 

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