The Trees - Ali Shaw - weirdly wondrous
It's taken me a while to fully digest this book between finishing reading it and writing down my thoughts. I loved the previous book by Ali Shaw, The Girl with Glass feet which was unique and imaginative, this novel is almost as difficult to categorize as this writer has a fearsomely vivid imagination. The cover too, is mind blowingly gorgeous.
Firstly let me say I thoroughly loved reading The Trees from start to finish, it proved to be a real page turner, imaginative and well written, yet I found it really difficult to accept, imagine and even picture the concept of trees bursting forth overnight and completely destroying the world in a matter of minutes, turning it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland peopled by random survivors. At no point was there any kind of explanation, or people asking how and why? They just accepted it and that's what I also had to do, I had to put aside my preconceptions of even science fiction being based on the possible and just go along for the ride, because I REALLY didn't get the concept.
I'd definitely say that it's much more post-apocalyptic fantasy than sci-fi, even though it reminded me in many ways of The Day of the Triffids, where killer plants take over the world leaving it a mere shadow of the world we know.
OK let’s get to the story. Our main protagonist is Adrien, he's kind of an anti-hero, he lives in English suburbia with his Irish wife Michelle, who has always supported him despite his self-acknowledged failing as a husband. His self esteem is at rock bottom, he is a coward, he is constantly fearful of life, quite frankly the guys a wimp, he hates his career as teacher and is bullied by the older pupils and he likes an easy life, preferring to sit and watch tv and eat takeaway’s rather than actually doing anything.
All that’s about to change, whilst his wife’s away on business and after an evening with a six pack slobbing around on the sofa he goes to bed and wakes to a changed world. Vast trees have burst densely out of the ground, growing to immense proportions instantly and destroyed everything in their path! Houses, buildings, roads are all gone, broken and damaged beyond repair. Adriens home is in pieces and by some miracle he has survived where all around him people have not been so lucky. From the branches of the trees hang belongings and bodies of the not so fortunate.
Oh, I did struggle with this idea! How on earth could so many trees all grow at the same sudden pace so large so quickly?? But they have and Adrien sets off leaving his shattered home with the vague notion of making his way Westwards, towards Michelle.
He soon bumps into another survivor Hannah who at first sees the arrival of the trees as a wonderful gift and her teenage son Seb, more at home in front of a pc screen than outdoors surviving.
They join forces reckoning there’s safety in numbers and despite their many differences manage to rub along quite well. Hannah is heading for her beloved brother a forester who she is sure will have insight on how to cope in a world of trees, the forest being his second home.
Soon the trio are joined by a Japanese girl Hiroko who adopts an orphaned fox cub naming him Yasuo and carrying him around in the hood of her sweatshirt – Oh Yasuo, adorable little creature found his way into my heart and left a fox shaped hole.
The story is so unusual, it’s very gripping and I kept turning page after page. There is a supernatural element with the stick like creatures who emerge from the trees and can only be seen by some,who call them Whisperers, there are the strange animals Kirin and an other-wordly hallucinatory aspect to everything. But the real story is about people, how some people grow and adapt when faced with adversity and others revert to true type and their savage side takes over.
I loved the story telling aspect, I adored Yasuo and the characters are all larger than life and deeply real. Highly recommended especially if you love fantasy, based in the world we know turned to a world we hope never to see.
There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins…
There is no warning. No chance to prepare.
They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves.
Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too.
Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes.
Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves