As seen on Stumptown Books
I don't usually reiterate the summary but the plot is pretty complicated. In the words of Inigo Montoya: Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
The world has changed.Rootless
introduces us to a post-apocalyptic melting pot. The only food that grows is corn, the only living things are humans and locusts, and even the bounty of the ocean (if it is
still bountiful) is out of reach because the moon is closer to Earth, and the tides are all crazy messed up.
In the middle of this, we meet Banyan, a young man making a living from building fake trees out of scrap metal, old tires, and LEDs. The last real trees were gone a century ago, but somehow enough of a society still exists that rich people enjoy their strange metal gardens. His father, who taught Banyan everything he knows, was lost last year, a victim to slave traders. Life is rough, but Banyan is obviously a survivor, getting through each day and taking pride in his projects.
Until he sees a picture of his dad, tied up, surrounded by beautiful, living trees.
Banyan starts on a journey that begins with him as a wanderer, questioning everything he's ever known, literally being rootless. Traveling across the country on a quest for his lost father and the unknown trees, Banyan and his unlikely troupe of friends are about to find out just how important our connections are.
The cover, along with the title, were the first things that drew me to this book. It is such an eerily beautiful but haunting image. It also definitely helped me to imagine exactly what Banyan meant when he said he builds trees. Seriously. He builds trees. How strange! This book is full of so many crazy ideas, they get thrown at us one after another. Yet they never feel out of place, and I never felt like I was playing catch up. This world exists, fully fleshed out, and we are but visiting for a little while.
The writing style was at first abnormal and difficult to get into. It reminded me of a young adult version of The Road
, where the sentences are super short and choppy. Also much like The Road
, the wasteland is not as important as much as what you do with it. With that said, this book would probably not be appropriate for readers younger than about 14 or 15. Chris Howard has no compunction in reminding us that this is a post-apocalypse. Shit goes down
. There is violence, cussing, and harassment. Thankfully, none of it was ever purely for shock value. But fair warning that it is in this book.
Perhaps, like Banyan, you will become "rooted and tangled" with the characters in this book. They are unique but easy to visualize, telling us about their strange pasts and all the different ways they are connected. This is a strange world, but it echos our own. My favorite character was probably Crow, a big burly "watcher," or bodyguard, whose loyalties are in question. Alpha is a close second, the mohawked desert pirate. That is certainly not a phrase I ever thought I would write! Both of their motivations were questionable at best and I just love it when bad guys can maybe become good guys, or vice versa.
While I find the science of the apocalypse...well let's just say that science definitely takes a backseat to adventure. On top of that, my least favorite mechanic, the amazing coincidence machine, makes a few appearances. Still, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. After I got past the initial choppy writing style, I settled down to enjoy it. The story moves at a break-neck speed that the genre has not seen for ages - stuff actually happens
! And Banyan still has time for introspection, and
he still has time to grow over the course of the novel. The person on the last page definitely started the journey with us, but he has matured and changed. Amazingly done.
Recommended if you are looking for a new young adult read that pushes the genre boundaries, and will have you heavily invested in the characters.ARC provided by the author
Extras: (it's not REALLY spoilerly but just in case)Chris Howard signed the ARC of Rootless with "May the forest be with you." At first I thought Aw, cute! Puns!
Then I got to chapter 47, and realized what that phrase could actually mean. CHRIS YOU CRUEL CRUEL MAN.