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Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: The Trees (2016) by Ali Shaw

The Trees by Ali Shaw,  published in paperback on August 2nd, 2016
Book Review:
The Trees (2016)
by Ali Shaw
Paperback edition published on August 2nd, 2016
Published by Bloomsbury USA
(Buy Hardcover version on Amazon)

   Ali Shaw is a young English novelist.  He lives and works in Oxford.  The Trees is his third novel, coming after The Girl With Glass Feet (2011), which was lauded as the top debut novel by the Desmond Elliot Prize.  He followed The Girl With Glass Feet with The Man Who Rained (2013). All three books combine elements of magical realism and fairy tale's with standard Anglo-American characters dealing with difficult emotional issues made worse by circumstance.

  In The Trees, that circumstance is a Day-of-the-Triffids-meets-The-Road style plant uprising.  In a single night, global civilization is utterly annihilated, and the survivors are left to make their way in a world that is fairly benign when compared to say, the nightmarish dystopias of The Road and The Walking Dead, but worse than a world where one can pop down to the Tesco for a rotisserie chicken.  Adrien Young, the married, childless protagonist is very much a pop down to the Tesco for a rotisserie chicken type of guy.  On the night of the tree uprising-apocalypse, he is winding up a year of "searching for himself" at the behest of his to-good-for-him wife, currently on a work trip to Ireland.
 He quickly hooks up with a troupe of survivors, a hippie single mom and her tech savvy mom and a young Japanese tourist who happens to be aces with a slingshot. They have episodic adventures of the sort one might expect in a book of this type, and there is also a larger plot concerning Adrien and his destiny.  The most unusual and distinctive aspect of The Trees is the creation of Adrien as not an anti-hero but a non-hero, a literary equivalent of Seinfeld's George Costanza, thrust into the post-apocalypse world.

  At 500 pages in length, The Trees isn't exactly a challenging read, but it's not something you can take down in a weekend.  It is extremely, extremely easy to see this work being adapted either for English or American TV or Film.   It's long enough to warrant a series on television, but compact enough to be turned into a stand alone feature film.  Given the popularity for apocalyptic themes in popular culture, such a move would be expected.

  Shaw successfully skirts the line between adult subject matter and writing something that sophisticated adolescents can enjoy.  There are moments of graphic violence, but nothing more upsetting than anything on television today (and significantly less violent than comparable cross-media properties like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.

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