Published in October 2019 by Tor Books, Interference is the second science fiction novel by American author and Spanish-English translator, Sue Burke, who previously published Semiosis, the first volume in the same series.

Interference picks up some time after the point where Semiosis leaves off, and unlike the previous volume, Interference takes place within a single subjective year for all of its point-of-view characters, with the sole exception of its final chapter, which observes events taking place back on Earth after the events of the core plot on the colony planet Pax.

Centuries after the Pax colony is established, global unrest, climate change, and warfare on Earth leads the world government to send an investigative team of human scientists to Pax, to determine if follow-up colonies should be sent, and to take stock of any natural resources which might be reaped from the colony. While this story is the second contact of humans with the sentient rainbow bamboo named Stevland, and the ant-like aliens known as Glassmakers, it is Earth's first contact with the Pacifist civilisation of humans, who are now living in harmony with the Glassmakers who had previously warred with them over territory and food.

The visiting Earthlings bring a lethal influenza strain to Pax, and several Earthlings die in attempts to wrest control over the Pacifist colony from its own inhabitants. The story follows the internal tensions and conflicts over leadership, both among the Earthling research team, and among the Pacifists in response to the invasive and deadly behaviour of Earthlings, whose language and culture are initially fully incompatible with those of the Pacifists. While all this is happening, forest fires and incursions of lethal "coral" at the edge of Stevland's forest are active existential threats to all characters we have met so far, though the Earthlings are not aware or convinced of the threat, having been kept in the dark about Stevland's sentience and importance to the Pacifist society.

As its title suggests, Interference is still about both linguistics and the growth and deterioration of civilisations, and the title refers to both radio signal distortion suffered by the Earthlings on their communication devices, and to the action of the Earthlings among the Pacifists.

Interference is a strong follow-up novel to Semiosis, but its tone is significantly different. By the time the reader starts sympathising with the Pacifists more strongly than with the Earthlings, the Earthlings begin having more point-of-view chapters in rapid-fire succession over very short spans of time within the narrative. Stevland's own perspective exists at a certain complicated objectivity over the rest of the action, as his ability to observe all other activity is quasi-omniscient across his vast root network. I recommend this novel, perhaps not as urgently as the one which came before, because I enjoyed it greatly and felt it did much to develop the world of Pax more clearly for the reader, but it raises as many new questions as it answers, and it does not appear the author intends to write a third book, leaving the ending somewhat open to interpretation.

Semiosis Duology
Semiosis (February 2018, Tor Books)

Iron Noder 2019, 27/30