Burke tells her story through the viewpoints of generations of human settlers, and this plays to one of her obvious strengths as a writer: the sharp, evocative delineation of believable characters ... The book is tremendously enjoyable – and also the announcement of an impressive new talent.
For all its ambition, Semiosis is a fairly slender volume. It’s also an easy read, and a pretty compelling one ... There’s a deep vein of kindness running through Semiosis, an understated understanding for the weaknesses and flaws of all sentient beings ... Each of Burke’s characters come to life as individuals: she has an excellent grasp of voice and characterisation ... I do feel that Semiosis would be a stronger book if at least one of the five major human viewpoint characters had not come across as a cisgender straight person: a future attempted-utopian society where there are no prominent queer people rather strains at my disbelief.
This debut displays impressive range, jumping across decades. The scope inevitably means that some characters and storylines are only touched upon before they recede into the past, but it’s more than forgivable in a story with such scope. Burke celebrates the adventurous spirit of the colonists while challenging their ideals, and our own. And in a rare (if not unprecedented) feat, her most compelling character may the intelligent bamboo struggling to see things through the eyes of the humans. Semiosis is a fascinating exploration of community alongside truly stunning worldbuilding, making the case that our notion of 'community' can and should include much more than just the people next door.