Sherri S. Tepper

The Family Tree

The human race has spent many years now, slowly but surely claiming stakes of land and covering them in concrete and tarmac, raising great cities in the name of the great god automobile. What if nature were to start a land grab of its own? That's the opening premise of this novel, as gradually trees begin to sprout all over the place, resisting any attempt to be rid of them. Dora Henry, a police officer married to an unhinged psychotic, soon finds her life altered dramatically by there appearance. All beginning with an altercation between her husband and a weed, and progressing to a world dominated by baby eating trees.

That summary doesn't really do it justice, its wonderful stuff, Tepper's prose is as beautiful as ever and the novel is a real page turner. Split at first between this story and another more fantastical story, lush and reminiscent of the Arabian Nights. I found it a bit of a distraction at first, pulling me away from the story I was really interested in, but gradually you are drawn into that tale as well. That of a girl from a harem sent off on a quest as a companion to a prince, following up on the promises of a prophecy.

Unsurprisingly the two threads gradually draw together as the novel progresses, up until the rather massive twist in the middle. Not really a plot twist as such, rather a complete change of perspective. It came close to being just a little too cutesy for me. It does lose it's way a little when the stories finally achieve their collision, and if the novel had been like this all the way through I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it so much. However the characters are closer to those in Alan Dean Foster's excellent Spellsinger series, so Tepper manages to pull it off, despite a rather embarassing rescue scene that wouldn't have been out of place in a Disney "epic".

When things move onward towards it conclusion though, she handles it beautifully. The various plot strands come together and everything falls perfectly into place, no missing pieces, or the final piece that obviously arrived from a different jigsaw just to make up the numbers. Instead we're left with a fine example of imaginative literature, and a brilliant topsy turvy view of the future in which the tables are truly turned.

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