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I'm getting the distinct impression that my feelings about Sue Burke's novels are all going to be complicated. Semiosis, was a thoroughly enjoyable first-contact story; at times brilliant with its descriptions of alien ecology, and at others boring when it moved into the sphere of interpersonal politics. In many respects, my thoughts on Interference are just as complicated as its predecessor.

Interference starts a century or two after Semiosis finished, with the launching of a second human mission to Pax in order to try and regain contact with the first. Inevitably, therefore, much of the meat of the book revolves around the response to their arrival and the relationship dynamics between native lifeforms, the first alien settlers (the Glassmakers of Semiosis) and the two separate human factions (the original human settlers and the new expedition). Unfortunately for me, that means that Interference has much less of the ecological discovery that I found so fascinating from the first book, and much more of the politics that I found less enthralling; things have inevitably changed to the ecology in the intervening centuries, and there is a brief mission of exploration to another continent, but overall the more scientific elements of the plot are certainly much less prevalent.

Something else that has altered is that the chapters are no longer spaced so far apart chronologically, with many even following on directly from the last. This is something that has greatly helped to alleviate Semiosis' greatest weakness: the fact that the small amount of conflict between characters seemed to appear out of nowhere, with no real foreshadowing. When the plot jumped ahead an entire generation, changes to the society that might have taken years to develop were suddenly thrust upon the reader all at once, and the decisions made by characters that were influenced by those changes often felt very arbitrary indeed.

That is not to say that Interference does not suffer from some fairly arbitrary character decisions - much of the behaviour of key characters once again seems to be deliberately written to provoke conflict and there are some very odd decisions being made - but much of the plotting does seem to have some logic behind it, even if it does not necessarily follow a form that would make sense to most sane individuals.

The changes in subject matter and overall tone means that Interference has far less of the brilliance of its predecessor, but where that has been lost, much in the way of consistency has been gained. There are still fascinating ecological mysteries present and I enjoyed reading it. On its own I think it stands up as a solid sci-fi novel, I just can't help but wonder what kind of a sequel a different mix of the elements of Semiosis might have created. Just like its predecessor, Interference is at that strange crossroads of having some brilliant ideas, just not quite being able to assemble them together into as pleasing a whole as would be hoped.