Dec 7, 2019

Advent Calendar - Seventh Wormhole

From the 1st until the 24th of December, we'll present you a reading tip from our holidays newsletter on this blog - and another reading tip, in German, on our website! Today, Marc is recommending the same book in both languages ...

Richard Powers
The Overstory
There have been discussions on why we would even stock this book, being that the speculative content in it is arguably minimal to nonexistant. The best answer to that question is one I stole from Abigail Nussbaum who said that The Overstory makes us see our planet as an alien place, with alien beings inhabiting it, thereby enabling us to imagine a different way of living, which is a sfnal view if there’s ever been one.
These alien beings are trees. This book is about trees, and it is also structured to resemble a tree. It starts off with a section called "Roots", single chapters that detail the origins and development of several characters. Later, in "Trunk", "Crown" and "Seeds" these people  meet and interact and, finally, separate again. The characters and their actions are constantly brought into some sort of relationship with the actual trees that live around them (or is it the other way around?). This may sound like an awfully tiring gimmick, but it is not, it is a solid core on which the book rests. Most of us encounter trees in our daily lives, and Powers shows how these encounters affect us, even if we are not aware of it. This removal of our disassociation from nature (embodied in the form of trees) is skillfully done and timely, and it invites us to dig deeper. There are fascinating facts interspersed in the story about the social capabilities of plants, based on quite current scientific research.
But Powers is also a good enough word-smith to turn the act of reading this book into an absolute joy, and a good enough story-teller to make the whole thing a gripping yarn which never gets boring. To my mind "Roots" is the strongest part, the way he portrays entire subplots with just a few sentences is absolutely masterful and made me grin widely every few paragraphs. But the whole book is well worth reading for the entertainment value alone, and if it succeeds in making you look at the world in a different way, well, what more can you ask for? Don’t blame me if you suddenly feel queasy about that Christmas tree you chopped down though.

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