Friday, April 12, 2013

Rootless by Chris Howard [Review]

Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publication.Date  November 1st 2012
Published By:  Scholastic
WebsiteChris Howard 

My review copy:Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .

Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.

But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

In this dazzling debut, Howard presents a disturbing world with uncanny similarities to our own. Like the forests Banyan seeks to rebuild, this visionary novel is both beautiful and haunting—full of images that will take permanent root in your mind . . . and forever change the way you think about nature.

“Because even when there is no hope, somehow you can still find a place to pin inside the things that you need.”
“I felt naked beneath the wildness of her eyes. I felt alive. Unknown. And I knew then that the world contained so many things I would never understand.”
“I gripped against her like she was metal and I was all full of lightning, charged up and jagged and of that moment alone.”
“I knew it was a day of endings, one way or another.”

     Bold, powerful, and thematically daring, Rootless is a masterpiece debut novel from Chris Howard. This astoundingly compelling and immensely satisfying novel tells the story of Banyan, a 17-year-old tree builder and an artist, who dedicated his whole life to creating trees from pieces of scrap metal and electronic elements, and is now about to be launched on a wild quest to find his missing father and the remaining trees on Earth. 

They figured me too young for a tree builder. I could see it in their eyes. Bunch of rich freaks, staring at me like I needed to impress them. But I did need to. That was the problem. 

     The world described in Rootless is completely mesmerizing. It's dark, ruthless, sad. Filled with misery and pain. Life is cheap in this world. People die from hunger, diseases, or from the hand of another. GenTech (a big corporation) controls the food supplies. Their genetically engineered superfood provides everything that a body needs, but people don't get enough of it. And there is nothing else to eat - all the animals are dead, plants are gone, and water supplies are short. The only thing that grows in this desert of a world is a genetically modified corn, but GenTech owns the cornfields and they'll kill anyone who tries to steal from them. And so people starve, their weakened bodies get sick, their lives are cut short. And even if you're lucky enough to get enough food, there are other things out there that can - and will - kill you. Like the mutated, flesh-devouring locusts. Or the pirates. It's a mad, mad world.

Everyone's got to have something to believe in, that's what Pop always told me. He'd spent his whole life trying to make the world worth living in. And I was damned if I was going to let him die someplace alone.

     Banyan is a great, believable character. His motivations seem real, he often acts on emotions, but also displays a lot of compassion and courage. He's a survivor. He's smart, quick-witted, resourceful. He fights for what he believes in and is ready to sacrifice himself for the people he loves and cares about. At the same time, he's not naive, he doesn't let others manipulate him. He has a strong will and an equally strong moral compass. Sure, he makes mistakes - who doesn't? But he always tries to do the right thing, and that's all that matters in the end. I had no problem connecting with him. His feelings and actions were real, and they definitely managed to affect me emotionally. I found myself rooting for him, sharing his happy and sad moments, his victories and heartbreaks. That is one masterful character development on Howard's part! 

I stared at her. Wanting her. And I wanted to be more than just her means to some end.  I wanted to be someone with which she'd become rooted and tangled.

     Banyan's creations symbolize so many things. They're not only pieces of art, built to please the eye and make life on the brutal, sun-parched earth slightly more bearable. They're also - or perhaps most of all - little islands of hope, bringing life, happiness and color to the darkest of times. They give people something to believe in, something to fight for. Banyan's tree-building work goes far beyond creating something from pieces of metal, plastic and electronics. He's not only a tree builder, he's also a soul-builder. His art has the power to inspire and transform, remind people of better times and push them to fight for their future. In that sense, Rootless is just as fun, entertaining and visually mesmerizing, as it is emotionally affecting, thought-provoking and poignant. Chris Howard created a thoroughly disturbing vision of the future, but also one that is not completely without hope. He succeeded in bringing the violent, desolate post-apocalyptic world of Rootless to vivid life. And he gave it purpose - to caution, educate and motivate. To inspire change before it's too late, before the terrifying reality of Rootless becomes our own. This novel is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally impactful. I was completely blown-away by all the aspects of it. 

     All in all, Howard's debut novel is simply mind-blowing. An ingenious combination of ground-breaking biopunk science fiction, mesmerizing fantasy adventure, and a stunning post-apocalyptic vision. The environmental message is clear and powerful, the social commentary - absolutely and completely relevant. On top of all that, the unexpected twists, high-intensity blood-splattered scenes and mind-numbingly shocking developments will keep you right on the edge of your seat all the way through. Rootless is just as much food for imagination as it is food for thought. I can't wait for the next book!

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