The Trees – Ali Shaw
1st April 2016, 496 pages, 5/5 stars
The Trees is the story of a natural apocalypse. Nature is completely over the way humans use and abuse her, and it is taking back its ground. Trees burst out of the ground, through houses, and through people, reclaiming the land on which humans have settled. Roads and buildings are destroyed, electricity is cut off – the world no longer has the comforts humans are used to.
Adrien Thomas was a bit of a pain. He’s an ex-schoolteacher whose wife has offered him a year off work so that he can figure out what to do with his life. Most of his time is spent watching crappy Westerns. His wife is in Ireland on a business trip when the trees come, and Adrien becomes worried, more concerned that their last parting was unfriendly than about her safety.
And while wandering aimlessly through what was once a town, Adrien meets Hannah, a hippie nature lover, who is excited about this natural apocalypse. She is pleased that Nature is restoring herself to the world. Together with her sixteen-year-old son, Seth, she intends to trek West to find her forester brother. Hannah invites Adrien along, and he follows, feeling that he SHOULD search for his wife, but more concerned about being left alone. The journey is tough, the trees having decimated the world they once new, and provided homes for wild creatures, such as wolves.
The characters develop quite significantly throughout the novel – Adrien saw the most improvement, but Seth remained my favourite all the way through! Seth was the stereotypical young person faced with this situation – he misses his computer and the Internet desperately, but he is adaptable.
While the book is set in the real, modern-day world (albeit destroyed by trees….), there is an element of the fantastical to it. Adrien keeps seeing little creatures running towards a particular tree; but when he looks back, it is gone. This fantasy element does resolve itself at the end of the book, and while it wasn’t the strongest part of the novel it didn’t feel out of place. Also, Ali Shaw has pictures of these little creatures scattered throughout the book – at the beginning of each part! And they are absolutely adorable!
I absolutely loved the landscape of the book – it was such an intriguing take on the apocalyptic/dystopian genre; it is not humans who destroy themselves, but Nature fighting back.
My biggest problem with the book was that too much new stuff happened in the last quarter of the book, and there just wasn’t enough time to resolve it all as neatly as I would have liked! It just moved a little bit too quickly, when I would have liked to explore some of those pieces a bit more!
Aside from the end (which was still good, just too short!), I absolutely loved this unique storytelling and would highly recommend it! I now have to go back and devour Ali Shaw’s other books, like the amazingly titled The Girl with Glass Feet. It’s gritty and wonderful all at the same time.
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, beating at the air with their branches, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest.
Buildings are destroyed and power lines felled. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves. Something creeps and whispers overhead. A wolf begins to howl…
Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when it becomes clear that no help is coming, he has little choice but to venture out into this unrecognisable world. The trees reach to the horizon, seemingly the work of centuries rather than hours. But Adrien’s wife Michelle is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether she is alive or dead and whether the trees have come for her too.
When Adrien meets Hannah – a woman who sees the arrival of the trees as a sign of renewal rather than destruction – and Seb, her teenage son, they persuade him to join them. Together, they pack up what remains of their lives and 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 through the trees will take them into unimaginable territory: to a place of terrible beauty and violence, of deadly enemies and unexpected allies, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.
Do you like fantasy mixed with reality? What do you think about nature biting back?