I’m not quite sure what kind of book Scarlett Thomas’s The Seed Collectors wants to be given its compositional melange of pop lit, fantasy, botany text and fairy tale with a dash of salaciousness and bondage here and a list or two there. Thomas is a talented author, inventive and wickedly funny, but throughout this book I found myself caring very little about a few characters and not at all for the rest. This is a novel surprisingly devoid of pleasure for the characters or the reader, not least because those characters are almost uniformly self-involved (or too thinly drawn to matter). I don’t necessarily need narratives of redemption or epiphanies—or even pleasure in a traditional sense—but I want a book with something I can care about. But The Seed Collectors never coheres into a whole; by the mid-point my hope that it would come together and inspire some feelings began to diminish and—as I slogged toward the finish—my lack of interest steadily increased…not unlike the sexual dissatisfaction felt by more than one of the characters as their own hopes and realities collided.

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