Appleseed by Matt Bell is a beautifully written and highly original work that explores themes of power, survival, and redemption. The novel follows the life of a man named John Chapman, who becomes known as “Johnny Appleseed” for his efforts to plant apple orchards across the Midwest in the 19th century. The story follows his many reincarnations, and I find myself still thinking about this book.
Bell’s writing is exquisite, painting vivid and captivating images of both the natural world and the human condition. His imaginative use of language creates a rich and immersive experience for the reader. Additionally, the book is structured in a unique and innovative way, using a non-linear narrative that jumps back and forth in time to explore the various facets of John Chapman’s life.
While the book’s originality and writing are its strengths, it is also fair to note that the novel can feel long-winded at times. But, overall Appleseed is an impressive and ambitious work that showcases Bell’s talent for storytelling and mastery of language. It is a recommended read for anyone looking for a thought-provoking and beautifully written exploration of the American frontier and the myth of the American dream.
Here’s the blurb:
A “breathtaking novel of ideas unlike anything you’ve ever read” (Esquire) from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity’s unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.
In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken—and possibly healed.
Fifty years from now, in the second half of the twenty-first century, climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power—and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build.
A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier—and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization.
Hugely ambitious in scope and theme, Appleseed is the breakout novel from a writer “as self-assured as he is audacious” (NPR) who “may well have invented the pulse-pounding novel of ideas” (Jess Walter). Part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale, Appleseed is an unforgettable meditation on climate change; corporate, civic, and familial responsibility; manifest destiny; and the myths and legends that sustain us all.