Seeds of Change by Willow Thomson, A Review

Pros:  Highly convincing portrayal of a particular personality.
Potential cons: Extensive telling of emotional states, low tension plot.

In Willow Thomson’s debut novel, Seeds of Change, plague and catastrophic climate change leave Earth uninhabitable. A wealthy leader gathers a group of space colonists, and they depart for an unexplored planet.

The colonists are a quirky group of “nerds and hippies,” including Jey, an alternative healer. Jey perceives other’s emotional states and motivations and senses what they need to heal. But Jey too keenly feels “the swamp of human energy and emotion.” The inability to buffer herself from human emotion compromises her work as a healer; it’s just too draining.

Jey’s dilemma raises the topic of healer burnout, a timely issue. Physician burnout, defined as emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment related to work, is a serious concern, not only in Western cultures but also in China.

The reasons for physician burnout are multifocal, hypothesized to include overwork, the bureaucratization of health care, stresses from legal liability, competition and personal financial over-extension. I wouldn’t be surprised if alternative healers are subject to similar stresses.

Intuitives are particularly ill suited to healing in the modern environment. These people include idealists, people hoping to make the world a better place, and analysts, people attracted to the science of healing. Both groups could fare poorly when confronted with the business of medicine: you’re not being paid to make people feel better and live better lives; you’re not being paid to interpret information and deduce a complex diagnosis. No. You’re being paid to see as many patients as possible, order scans and tests, sell cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, or perform procedures. A production-based healthcare setting would feel hostile to Intuitives, either intellectually or spiritually or both.

But Intuitive Feelers, like Jey are especially liable to burnout thanks to emotional exhaustion. The idea of healing draws people like Jey, but they drown in their patient’s needs and sorrows. And they can’t sheath themselves in Teflon coated steel armor and just get on with it. They’re not constructed that way. Besides, suppressing one’s true self long-term would lead to psychological harm.

Fortunately for Jey, her perceptiveness magnifies on the world of Aride, allowing supernatural abilities which come in handy for the colonists. She moves on from healing to other interests, becoming in the process a visionary, another classic role for Intuitives. A series of unfortunate events imperils the colonists, but Jey’s talents save the day, several times. The colony leaders heed her warnings. Remarkable, since the usual reaction would be mockery or fear, just ask Cassandra.

By far the best aspect of Seeds of Change is the portrayal of Jey. This character is organically constructed; her past, decisions and reactions make perfect sense. I understood how life would feel lived within Jey’s skin. The book also touches on one of my favorite concepts, generational trauma. Otherwise, the book is a very good first effort.

Minor issues include excessive emotional tell; emotion is stated. Readers are told how Jey feels, and sometimes this telling stretches over paragraphs. All information good to know, but I prefer to discover character more gradually, a sprinkle here and there, woven subtly into the story.

And while Jey is portrayed quite vividly, I never got a read on her love interest, Rob. Some aspects of his character weren’t fully fleshed out. I sensed future installments of this tale might resolve some of Rob’s mystery. Finally, the plot is somewhat lacking in tension; an early crisis is quickly averted, and the final crisis actually happens to the bad guys. Jey’s circumstances are perilous, given that she’s a space colonist, but she herself is not directly imperiled. So this book is no rollercoaster, more of a pleasant float down a curvy stream, and sometimes, a float is what one needs.

My favorite quote from Seeds of Change is:

That was an old habit of thinking that didn’t have a context anymore. It was time to let it go.

Thomson, Willow. Seeds of Change (Aride Universe Book 1) (p. 250). Zenergy LLC. Kindle Edition.

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