RaveLos Angeles Review of Books... plays on the dystopian climate disaster genre, deftly weaving threads from Greek mythology, magical realism, and America’s settler-colonial folklore to create the parallel universe its characters inhabit ... Unpredictable to the last page, Appleseed ties these disparate narratives together with a rich network of symbolism and sharp prose. While there are tensely written action scenes befitting a sci-fi thriller, at the book’s core is a burning ethical question that wavers on the knife-edge of climate optimism and fatalism: Faced with the end of the world, would you bet on humanity to finally come together and avert disaster? Or one woman, one company, with a vision and the means to guarantee the outcome? ... propelled by the strength of its ideas rather than its specific characters or exotic worldbuilding. There are nods to Iain M. Banks and Ursula K. Le Guin, which might make the reader feel as though they’re watching an elaborate thought experiment untangle itself. The characters have lives of their own insomuch as they are tools to solve that greater puzzle. As such, the book occasionally breaks the fourth wall, veering away from the temporal plots into passages such as the one quoted above where the narrator speaks directly to the reader about their current and future complicity in the events about to occur. In this way, Bell pulls readers back and forth between seeing Eury and Earth Trust’s enormous power as a villainous force to be fought, and the only means of survival in a world where governments are ineffectual and unsustainable resource consumption continues unabated. Moments such as these, and more ethereal scenes where Chapman is chased by three time-bending spirits in the Ohio woods, pull em>Appleseed out of the sci-fi genre and into something more — a cerebral folktale all its own ... Because the novel’s present-day timeline is so close to our own, the alternate world Bell creates feels jarringly prescient ... not your typical sci-fi novel in the same way the 2016 film Arrival is less about an alien invasion and more about theories of linguistics-driven perception. So, while readers expecting a gritty climate dystopia, or a one-world-order, might be disoriented by Appleseed’s bucolic opening chapter about an apple-obsessed 18th-century faun, they’re in for something incredibly unique and equally gripping.
PositiveThe Cleveland Review of Books... drive[s] home Americans’ broad familiarity with the ethos of comfort-in-conformity and liberty-in-land-ownership that has made mass-produced suburbs so attractive from their inception ... Using pop culture as a lens through which to view the suburbs is a revealing tactic ... To Diamond’s credit, The Sprawl includes the stories of African American rappers moving into majority-white neighborhoods in the North Side of Chicago and techno music’s origins in Detroit, among others. These illustrate not only the hardships faced by these individuals at the hands of their neighbors, but the contributions they made to American pop culture alongside them...Additionally, underlying the book’s journey through various Midwestern, Floridian, and Northeastern suburbs is the author’s personal experiences of life in those places. Coupled with the narrative’s focus on films and music, this geographical diversity makes a book about suburbia, and the \'most boring places\' in America, a far more interesting read ... As a person of color who grew up in the suburbs, there’s much in Diamond’s writing that I can relate to. However, there is much about the suburbs today that is fundamentally at odds with the perceptions pop culture perpetuates ... We need more books by authors of color about the intent, lived experiences, and cultural products of suburban America ... for the average reader who wants an introduction to the suburbs, how they came to be, and why they have such a deep physical and psychological hold on America, I would happily recommend The Sprawl. With that said, the black and brown fists raised up across housing developments and small towns today reflect a wealth of cultural vitality that is significantly underexplored in books such as Diamond’s ... One looks at those fists today and can’t help but wonder: Where are the books written by those same hands? They do exist, though they often receive far less attention and critical acclaim than they deserve. However, just as often, future authors, artists, filmmakers, and cultural icons are never given a chance at a platform in the first place as their experiences are deemed \'not representative enough.\' Yet it seems, now more than ever thanks to anti-racism reading lists, that we are still searching for the authors who grew up in Marty McFly’s America but witnessed a vastly different side of it.