Home > Book, Review, scifi > Book Review: Botanicaust by Tam Linsey (Series, #1)

Book Review: Botanicaust by Tam Linsey (Series, #1)

Book Review: Botanicaust by Tam Linsey (Series, #1)Summary:
When the world is devastated by GMO plants over-running the land and destroying cropland, humanity splits into multiple factions.  There’s the people who firmly believe in transforming people so that they can photosynthesize food from the sun–and have green skin. There’s the cannibals, who have returned to a hunter/gatherer way and eat humans when necessary.  Unbeknownst to the green folk, there’s a holdout of Old Order Amish.  They’ve changed from how they were in the past but still hold onto many of their ways.  In particular, they have decided that taking green skin is the Mark of the Beast, and will not go for it.

Tula is a scientist among the green folk who is tasked with assisting cannibal children who are kidnapped and converted.  Levi is an Amish who leaves the compound against orders, seeking yet another group of scientists who are supposed to live in a mountain and may have the cure to his dying son’s Cystic Fibrosis.  When Levi is swept up in a green raid of cannibal land, his and Tula’s worlds collide with unimaginable consequences.

Review:
I picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocalyptic future.  This is certainly and interesting and unique read for any fans of post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature.

The future is imaginative with many different groups and reactions to the botanicaust (the destruction of plant matter that is considered this world’s apocalypse).  As someone who has studied the Amish, I appreciated how the author imagined how the Old Order would handle such a crisis and address it for the future.  Allowing people into the compound if they are willing to convert seems logical, and showing that the Old Order did accept some technological innovation also makes sense.  Similarly, the green scientists who seek to photosynthesize everyone and don’t seem to care too much if the cannibals want to be photosynthesized or not make logical sense.  The scientists believe this is the solution in a world without enough food, and hey haven’t bothered to do any cross-cultural studying to see if there is any rhyme or reason or value to the cannibal lifestyle.  This again is a logical position for a group of scientists to hold.  The other group of scientists who live in the mountain and have managed to find the solution to not aging are a great contrast to the groups of greens.  Whereas the greens do sometimes do evil but don’t intend to, they only intend to be helping (with the exception of one bad guy character), the mountain dwellers have been turned inhumane by their abnormally long lives.  These three groups set up a nice contrast of pros and cons of scientific solutions and advancement.  At what point do we stop being human and at what point are we being too stubborn in resisting scientific advancement?  How do we maintain ethics among all of this?  The exploration of these groups and these questions was my favorite part of the book.

The plot is complex and fast-paced, visiting many areas of the land and groups of people.  I wasn’t particularly a fan of the romance, but I can see where others would find that it adds to the book.  I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the pairing that was established, but for no reason other than it seemed a bit illogical to me.  Then again, romance is not always logical.

The one thing that really bothered me in the book was the representation of Down Syndrome and the language used to refer to it and those who have it.  The mountain scientists have children, but as a result of tampering with their own genetics, all of their children have Down Syndrome.  First, I don’t like that this makes it appear as if Down Syndrome is a punishment to the evil scientists who went too far with science.  Down Syndrome is a condition some people are born with.  It is not a condition as the result of anything a parent did, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.  Second, all of the characters with Down Syndrome are presented as large, bumbling oafs with hearts of gold.  There is just as much variety to the personalities and abilities of those with Down Syndrome as there are in those of us without Down Syndrome.  Finally, the author persists in referring to these characters as:

a Down’s Syndrome woman (loc 2794)

or of course, “a Down’s Syndrome man.”  First, the preferred term for Down Syndrome is Down Syndrome, not Down’s Syndrome.  This is a mistake that is easy to make, though (I have made it myself), and I am willing to give the author a pass for that.  The more upsetting element in the way she refers to these characters though is that she always lists the condition first and then the person, not the other way around.  It is always preferred, in any illness or condition, to list the person first and the illness or condition second.  For instance, a woman with cancer, not a cancerous woman.  A man with PTSD, not a PTSD man.  A child with Down Syndrome, not a Down Syndrome child.  I cringed every single time this happened, and it happens a lot in the section of the book that takes place in the mountain.  Given that this is an indie book, and it is thus quite easy to make editing changes and fixes, I would hope that the author would go through and fix this simple aspect of language.  It would be a show of good faith to the entire community of people who have Down Syndrome, as well as their families. For more on the preferred language when referring to Down Syndrome and people who have Down Syndrome, please check out this excellent guide, written by the National Down Syndrome Society.

It’s a real bummer to me that the language about Down Syndrome and presentation of these characters isn’t better, because if it was, this would have been a five star read for me.

Overall, this is an interesting and unique post-apocalyptic future with an action-packed plot.  Those who are sensitive to the language used to refer to Down Syndrome and representation of people with Down Syndrome may wish to avoid it, due to an unfortunate section where characters with Down Syndrome are referred to improperly and written a bit two-dimensionally.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

ETA:
The author has written a thoughtful and kind comment on this post.  You may view it by going below.  To sum up, she cannot make edits to those book, due to it also having an audiobook version.  However, she has promised to edit for these issues in future books containing characters with Down Syndrome.  This genuine and thoughtful response is much more than the community of those with Down Syndrome and their families and loved ones often get, and it is very much appreciated.

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  1. February 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Amanda, I truly appreciate your in depth and constructive review. I would have gladly gone in and made the changes you suggest last autumn, however, the audiobook for Botanicaust has been approved in Whispersync for voice, and if I change the wording at all, I lose that status. 😦 So I beg everyone to forgive my faux pas.

    I will go back and carefully re-check my novella, The Reaping Room, to be sure I have my terminology correct there, since it isn’t tied up with Whispersync yet.

    Of note, I chose Down Syndrome for a birth defect because it is one that is easily recognizable by most people (heart defects or other internal issues aren’t visible.) I imagined the Fosselite’s children having many other birth defects, many not survivable, but didn’t want to go into too much depth there, so stuck with one issue. (I actually pictured Michael having Fragile X Syndrome, not Down Syndrome.) Anyway, probably more information than you wanted, but I wanted to acknowledge your comments, and again thank you for taking the time to present such a thoughtful review.

    • February 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      Hi Tam! I appreciate the thoughtful comment. Losing whispersync status is a very valid reason to make no edits, and I completely understand why you need to save that status. (Side-note: Kudos to you for getting your book into Whispersync status! I noticed that and was quite impressed).

      I very much appreciate that you will keep an eye out for this in the future. That is much more than many differently-abled communities ever get, and it is definitely noticed and valued.

      I’ll put an ETA into the post here and in GoodReads and LibraryThing to reflect your comments.

      My niece has Down Syndrome, so I am perhaps both more educated on the topic and also more sensitive to it than most readers and reviewers.

      I appreciate and enjoyed reading your background information on the Fosselites, and I also truly did enjoy seeing such a wide variety of differently-abled characters in your book. I do hope you will continue to include them in the future. Seeing someone with Down Syndrome in scifi is so unusual, and I hope to be able to share my love of scifi with my niece in the future, and have her be able to see some reflection of herself in the literature. 🙂

  2. March 5, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    This sounds like it could be a really interesting look at the complex ethical issues associated with science, but I’m also really, really tired of scientists being the bad guys. I feel like there’s already a lot of unwarranted fear about GMOs and a book like this only adds fuel to the fire. I’m not saying there are no concerns about GMOs or that we shouldn’t be careful and I am in favor of there being labels so people know what they’re eating, but I think a lot of the concern about GMOs is rooted in ignorance, not thoughtful consideration of the facts. A book that asks people to imagine the worst bothers me a bit because I feel like it encourages panic. I am very impressed by the author’s thoughtful response to your concerns about the way people with Down Syndrome were portrayed though.

    • March 6, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Perhaps my concerns about not revealing any spoilers made the book sound much more anti-science than it actually is (in fact, I personally wouldn’t call it anti-science at all, but others may interpret it differently), and if that is the case, my apologies to the author.

      Tula is a scientist from the green people. The green people responded to the botanicaust with more science, not less. They make some mistakes, yes, but they’re definitely not demonized. In fact, their science helps various characters survive. Part of the main conflict of the book is Levi defying the Amish order that he not interfere with his son’s Cystic Fibrosis. He instead leaves the safehold in search of scientists who could heal his son.

      *spoilers*
      At the end of the book, half of the Amish have chosen to be genetically modified into green folk both to heal their children with cystic fibrosis but also to live more comfortably and with less fear of starvation. The other half refuse. Neither view is held as bad. It is presented as a gray situation. Nothing is black and white. Science is neither the hero nor the demon. Science just is what it is….using it being a choice that it is up to the people to make. The scientists in the mountain are scary and bad, yes. But they experiment on unwilling human subjects, and they have somehow made themselves immortal. To me, they seem to be there as a representation of what can happen when scientists forget their humanity and go too far. Not to demonize science. If science was being demonized, the green people and Tula would not be presented in such a positive light.

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