Wow! This profound, thought-provoking novel requires you to read slowly, as each of three story arcs wrestle with profound issues about the ultimate survival of humanity, what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what damage to Earth humanity has wrought. The book centers on three ultimately diverging stories set centuries apart: the pioneers’ expansion west in America, a near future environmentally ravaged Earth, and a thousand years in the future post-apocalyptic Ice Age. Each story’s fight against bleakness feels both unsettling and bracing.
In 18th-century Pennsylvania and Ohio, two disparate brothers push the boundaries of the frontier wilderness, annually planting hundreds of apple seeds to create future orchards. Nathan, the older brother, hopes to grow rich collecting from future pioneers who settle the land. Chapman, part human and part-mythical faun and in a story arc part fairy tale, hopes that one of trees will someday and somehow grow an apple that will enable him to be human, and not feel so isolated and alone.
In late 21st-century America, environmental change has forced the West to be vacated and refugees sent to a private company started in Ohio that seeks to preserve what little life is left. John, one of the founders of that company and disillusioned with the company’s growing greed, has gone out West to engage in eco-terrorism to try to restore the land to its pre-human condition. Ultimately John returns undercover to corporate headquarter to confront and thwart his uber-ambitious cofounder Eury.
Eons in the future amidst a glacier-covered Earth, part-human and part-faun “C-433” driving an ice crawler has gone through hundreds of life iterations, with a personality and memory “rack” implanted in constantly regenerated “biomass.” The current iteration of C, recreated with part of a tree’s biomass discovered under deep ice by his predecessor, becomes part tree, replete with bees and grass. He also discovers long-forgotten instructions, leading C on a dangerous journey across the ice to find what, if anything, of humanity remains.
All these stories ultimately converge as the book wraps up its disparaging take on humanity’s wrecking of Earth, and failed stewardship to preserve both our species and a life-sustaining climate. Fortunately, the power of our planet, its millennium cycles of hot and ice ages, and life’s resilience transcends human greed and power for destruction. Appleseed’s deep philosophical insights and heft resonate long after you’ve finished the story.
Thanks to Netgalley for an Advanced Reader’s copy of this book.