“Enjoyed this book. As Banyan the protagonist and 1st person narrator was likable, had a very good moral compass considering the world he lived in, it was easy to like the story he told about his life building artificial trees in a world where no more natural trees exist due to GenTec's, an evil...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It
“Find my full review on my blog: http://thereadinghedgehog.blogspot.com/
“Find my full review on my blog: http://thereadinghedgehog.blogspot.com/
Characters: Banyan, our protagonist, is such a guy. And not in a good way. He reeked of guy cologne (y’know - the type that guys swear attract girls, but in reality repel them; the type that sisters scream at their brothers for spraying about in the bathroom), Cheetos, and sweaty socks. Unsurprisingly, he had no real personality. For the record, I didn’t just hate Banyan, but I sure as heck didn’t care about him, either. Sal was just a creepy little slime-ball; I was looking forward to the moment when something bad happened to him. Alpha, the “pirate gal,” could have, I will admit, been so much worse. She didn’t wholly have The Attitude, and she could have. But like with Banyan, I just didn’t care. Zee was about the only character I kind of liked, but that was mostly out of desperation for someone to attach to. And she wasn’t, not surprisingly, in the story all that much. I couldn’t take Crow seriously because of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Sorry, but the name is just ruined for me now. I will forever see a little gold robot with a serious god complex.
The Romance: When Alpha showed up, I groaned very loudly. Especially when Alpha and Zee meet and their hair starts standing on end like cats. But the Author actually destroyed any possibility of a love triangle between Alpha, Banyan, and Zee (I won’t tell you how, but it worked), and for that I am eternally thankful. But the romance between Alpha and Banyan just didn’t work. For one thing, it was super rushed - and I mean super rushed. Banyan starts ogling Alpha’s thighs pretty much immediately (no joke), and Alpha tells him to sod off (yay), and then suddenly - and I mean suddenly - Alpha is all, “Oh, Banyan, kiss me!” Because you know, every girl wants to be kissed by a guy who hasn’t had a shower in forever, and who hasn’t brushed his teeth in forever, either. Not that Alpha’s hygiene is much better, but still.
Plot: Oh boy. I kind of had my doubts from the beginning, but I was willing to give it a try. Who knew - maybe it would surprise me. Well, it didn’t. The only thing that surprised me about it was the fact that it wasn’t nearly as preachy as I was expecting it to be, so thumbs up for that. But the plot is just silly. For one thing, it starts out feeling a lot like Waterworld (the movie) - only without the water. How? Well, in Waterworld these baddies, who reek to high heaven of axle grease and cigarette smoke, are after this girl, who has a tattoo on her that leads to the last bit of dry land in existence. In Rootless, the baddies already have the girl (or woman, rather), and she has a tattoo on her that leads to the last place in existence where trees grow. This ends up being a bit of red herring, but the similarity is certainly there, be it by chance or on purpose. But as the plot progresses, I began to miss this plotline, because it got just plain stupid. The “twist” in the end - [Spoiler] GenTech is turning people into trees that the locusts can’t eat [End spoiler] - doesn’t work. It feels like the Author put it in simply for shock factor; to turn it into one of those sci-fi thriller with genetic experiments. But it plain didn’t make sense. Why does certain human DNA keep locusts from eating the trees? Sorry, but I didn’t buy it. The Author also threw in Rastafarians, which was just totally strange. Out of all of the religious peoples to pick, why Rastafarians? Was he trying to be original? Because it came across as random and pointless to the story. How exactly the world came to be the way it is (high ocean levels, man-eating locusts) is not really explained, either. I got the impression that it was all linked to the locusts, but I didn’t understand how.
Believability: There are things about the Author’s world that didn’t work for me. First off, the flesh-eating locusts. I will grant that this is kind of a science fiction book, and impossible things happen in science fiction. So in the world of Rootless, the locusts have turned to eating people because they’ve eaten everything else. If it wasn’t for the fact that it felt like this was in the story purely for scariness factor, I might have been somewhat okay with it. But my real problem was with the corn. Yes, the corn. GenTech has genetically altered corn so the locusts can’t eat it, therefore corn is all people have to eat. But GenTech owns all corn production, and they won’t sell it to everyone (why they won’t, I don’t entirely understand, because they could, in fact, make bigger profit by selling corn to everyone, especially since their corn can’t be destroyed and therefore they can only gain profit, and not lose it). But, they don’t just use corn as food, but fuel as well. No. Just no. If corn is their only source of food - and the majority of the population can’t have it anyway - they would not be burning it as fuel. Also, why isn’t GenTech looking into ways to kill off the locusts? This, to me, seems like a much easier thing to do that finding ways to grow genetically-engineered food. There’s also an astounding lack of government. I don’t know if GenTech is the government (logically, they have to be, since laws cannot exist without one), or if they’re just a “big bad” corporation (which couldn’t exist without a government, either, actually). And then there’s the pirates . . . I’ll put it simply and sweetly: they’re all butch chicks, and Alpha - one of the pirate gals - wears a fluffy pink vest. Need I say anything more?
Writing Style: It was bad. Choppy, tons of short sentences, and so guy. The Maze Runner was a guy book - I’ll admit that. And I liked it. But there’s a difference between guy and guy. The Maze Runner didn’t reek of Axe and pizza and Cheese Whiz and dirty laundry. In short, it didn’t smell like a frat-house. This did. For once, the protagonist’s narration voice was too accurate. Due to the choppiness of the writing, I had the hardest time visualizing the Author’s world.
Content: 32 s-words. Some of the violence can get a little graphic.
Conclusion: Not nearly as exciting as I was expecting it to be. In fact, it was rather lame. The twist concerning Banyan’s parents and the trees seriously belonged in a bad 1970s sci-fi flick, and the graveness of the rebellion was lessened considerably by the fact that the people who were running away from GenTech hadn’t a stitch on. Now that made for some hilarious mental images. In short, this book was a waste of time. It was silly, it made positively no sense, and I have little doubt that the sequels will be any better.
Recommended Audience: Guy-read all the way, eighteen-and-older.”
“Enjoyed this book. As Banyan the protagonist and 1st person narrator was likable, had a very good moral compass considering the world he lived in, it was easy to like the story he told about his life building artificial trees in a world where no more natural trees exist due to GenTec's, an evil corporation, genetic engineering of pest resistant crops which resulted in super bugs that ate everything else on the planet. Banyan soon sets out on a quest to find his missing father who left him, while also trying to find a semi-mythical place where trees still grow. ”Tom wrote this review Sunday, April 28, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Awesome...”Mrs. Branham, CHS Library Media Specialist wrote this review Friday, March 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“As happens from time to time, I've read a book that is wonderful, but that does not work perfectly for the kind of reader that I am. Rootless by Chris Howard is a true dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel set in a nightmare landscape. The writing is beautiful and the characters are unique. I definitely like Rootless and I'm very impressed by Howard's debut, but I'm too easily confused by science for it to be the perfect book for me.
First off, I want to praise Chris Howard's writing to the skies. The writing is beautiful, perfectly matched to Banyan and to the world itself. Howard manages to establish that Banyan speaks in dialect with the use of words like "reckon," but keeps it to a minimum. Thus, he clearly gets across the sound of the characters without making Rootless any less readable. Dialect done wrong is a miserable reading experience, and I think Howard takes a marvelous approach.
Howard builds from a pretty standard dystopian formula with the evil corporation GenTech, but the world itself is like nothing I've ever read before. The world has gone to seed in just about every way possible. Trees and animal life (except for humans and locusts) have died out. The only remaining food source is a genetically modified corn that the locusts cannot eat, which means the locusts have to settle for the only remaining dietary option: people. Man-eating bugs are pretty much my worst nightmare. There are also pirates, and a whole lot of other unscrupulous, cutthroat folks. In Rootless, characters really do suffer, and it's not all about the romance; people die in nasty ways, just as they should in a good post-apocalyptic.
Banyan works as a tree builder. What's a tree builder?, you might ask. Well, since the trees are gone, the landscape's a tad empty. Rich folks will pay to have trees built on their landscape. Banyan, as his father taught him, crafts trees out of metal. This is a very strange concept, but one that puts such a stark mental image of this world into my head. His cast of characters is just as memorably strange as the trees built out of metal.
As I mentioned previously, the world in Rootless is one in which countless things have gone wrong. Genetic modification of foodstuffs lead to stronger locusts, which lead to no trees. A lack of trees presents its own problems. The moon also came closer to the earth, which messed with the ocean. All of the non-human animals are gone. Everything that's left is controlled by a corporation, the only institution capable of making food without cannibalism. All of this was just way too much for me to process, and I spent a lot of time confused, trying to figure out why something happened and what repercussions it would have on society.
From interviews I've seen, I'm sure Howard has done his research and put tons of thought into everything, but he lost me. Actually, I had a similar problem with The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, which is beloved of many people who understand science much better than I do. To tell you the hard truth, I was at best a mid-B range student in high school science. I know just enough to get things really wrong and muddled. Readers with more science background or less inclined to puzzle over things endlessly will likely not have this issue. Also, since Rootless is told from a first person perspective, the world building will likely become more clear as Banyan learns more.
Oh, one last thing, Howard is a HUGE Star Wars fan. It's all over his inspiration board on Pinterest, for example. His love of Star Wars really shines through. There are some very cleverly done references, which I, having been raised from a young age to be obsessed with the original trilogy (the only one that exists in my brain), loved. Watch out for those, Star Wars fans!
I highly recommend Rootless to readers who enjoy harder science fiction with a focus on world building and storytelling. Fans of Paolo Bacigalupi and Star Wars should especially take note.”
“Banyan builds trees in a dystopian society, and building is the operative word as there are no longer any trees to be found anywhere. Or is there? When word gets to him about a place where there are growing trees, and where he might find his father, who was "taken," Banyan sets out to find him. And he picks up a cast of characters along the way. This is the first in a series, but not one I particularly want to continue. I didn't think the writing was all that good in the Banyan and some of the other main characters were slightly annoying a lot. It was ok, but not one I'd recommend.”Lynda wrote this review Tuesday, February 5, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“In this post-apocalyptic, dystopian book we follow Banyan who is a tree builder. In the now desolate landscape trees do not grow, locusts eat everything in sight (including people), and GenTech genetically engineers the only edible food. Banyan uses recycled scrap metal and parts to create shrubs and trees that move and glow so the wealthy people can remember the world that once existed. While on a job Banyan comes in contact with a photo of his missing father sitting among “real” trees. Now, Banyan is on a search for his father and the Promised Land. On his way he will come into contact with friends and enemies, including poachers, pirates, and GenTech agents.
I liked Banyan’s character and the world building in this book, which was brought to life by trees that Banyan so lovingly created. The book went in a more science fiction direction then I expected, which didn’t detract from the book, but made it a little hard to follow as we got deeper into the GenTech world and the genetic engineering. I loved Alpha’s character; she was a pirate that reminded me of Tank Girl with her Mohawk and no-nonsense attitude surviving in a deserted wasteland. I wanted more Alpha and her relationship with Banyan. I flew through this book and will probably read the sequel. This was a good addition to the flooded dystopian market. ”
“Teenager, Banyan, is a tree-builder; in a world without living trees, he builds forests out of scrap metal and LED lights. He's good at what he does, one of the best in fact, taught by his now-missing father. On Banyan's quest to find his father he encounters pirates, flesh-eating locusts, and massive fields of genetically engineered crops. The post-apocalyptic world Howard creates is at once brutal and believable and will hopefully make any reader think about what type of future we are creating. -Elana, Circulation”Boulder Public Library wrote this review Friday, December 21, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The tree builder Banyan is forced to take action when he makes contact with a girl named Zee that has pictures of real trees and his lost father chained to a tree. He then goes on his journey with a girl he has just met to go save his father. With all his friends that he meets along the way he will do everything in his power to get his father back.”Patrick Silver wrote this review Wednesday, December 19, 2012. ( reply | view 1 replies | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
Okay, so, can I just say how much I love the amount of futuristic semi-apocalyptic westerns that are coming out of YA right now? However, here's one that hasn't been done before, at least not without using space opera as an additional sub-genre - a techno-western. Yep. That's right. And you know what? I totally got sucked in. Put on your seatbelt, folks. Not only do we have a techno-western, but it's a current social commentary-based one. Love it when authors can pull that off without sounding preachy, and Howard does it here fantastically. This is one 2012 debut you don't want to miss.
Where to start? The world. The world was so well-built, and believable, yet at the same time, it's very sparsely written. It's rich and detailed but written in a very compact way, not sprawling or overly flowery, and it all just works. It's not under-furnished with information, nor is it totally over the top like it could have been. It's just there. And it works. The only area I was a bit fuzzy on was the time (we're given a benchmark - a century after the Darkness, when the last of paper/wood/etc kinda disappeared from the planet), but in terms of how far that is from now, we're not given an answer. But since this book looks to be the first in what's at least a duology, I feel like I can allow this when it usually drive me mad. The rest of the world is so complete that the sense of time just isn't a factor bothering me this time, which is always an awesome thing.
I think another reason why the time thing isn't bothering me - this book is equally plot-driven and character-driven. Which is insanely hard to do, because it's so easy to fall into the trap of a plot-driven story (far moreso, I'd say, than a character-driven story), where the characters and their transformational journeys (and the arcs that come with them) get utterly neglected all in order to advance the story. Howard surprised me with his ability to keep it balanced, with all of the main cast changing in some fashion by the end of this first book. Of course, as the protagonist, we see Banyan change the most, but all of the characters, including the antagonists (and the seemingly faceless menace that is GenTech, who actually gets a face - or more than one, but I won't spoil you guys any further) do change to some degree.
While I was excited to keep the pages flipping, I also found myself caring very deeply for these characters and this world that seemed so fragile yet like Banyan and his metal trees, very strong. All of the characters, even antagonists, are surprisingly sympathetic. We also get a lot of racial/ethnic/cultural diversity, which was so amazingly nice to see (it feels like we don't have a lot of that in YA right now aside from the contemporary, but even there, it's still a bit on the thin side). We get Zee and her mother, Banyan, the Rasta Soljahs, and so forth. It was a nice little rainbow of diversity all around, and I love how all of these cultures clashed in this slowly-dying world. We get the rich and the poor (but mostly the very poor), the evil Big Pharma/Con-Agra business, pirates and poachers and slavers, and everyone who falls in between in a huge spectrum. There is no (moral) black and white in this world, as we learn by the end of the book, though it is very tempting to throw the antagonist and the protagonists on either side of the black/white set of scales. There's a lot of murky gray, and that's where I feel like Howard gives us one of the biggest messages of the book in terms of Banyan's solo character development/journey arc - about growing up. When you grow up (or are forced to), there's a lot more gray than everyone tells you about. And making choices suddenly gets harder in that gray haze because rarely are answers that easy or quick.
But some of my favorite bits of this book all have one thing in common - Howard's fantastic use of sensory imagery and language. The Banyan-built trees, the real trees, the tattoo on Hina, the shanty towns around futuristic Vegas (called Vega all these years later) - all of that felt real. The sound of the man-eating locusts was pretty terrifying and yeah, I actually did jump a bit whenever they were in action. The waterfalls of the Soljah camps at Niagara Falls. Banyan's wagon and all the things within it. All of it made for some pretty unforgettable images. There's a lot of cyberpunk and biopunk at work in this book, so you still retain that techno-western feeling (think "Cowboy Bebop" without the bounty hunting or space ships, but with a kid and his dad doing various jobs much like Spike and the Bebop crew in order to keep their bellies full) without sacrificing too much else to these other sub-genres.
And the last: the social commentary bit of the book. Howard doesn't get preachy, but the warning is pretty dire (and considering where we are in our current culture where we actually had to call out Walmart and Monsanto on putting GMO'd fruits and veggies in their markets, we could use that warning) - under the tyrant foot of not just governments, but companies, do we have severe poverty and all the ugliness that comes with it. There is no government in this book but that of GenTech - you live and die by their will. It's pretty sinister, and it's definitely a wake up call - especially when it's revealed that GenTech hasn't just dabbled in splicing for making corn. I won't say another word on that because it'd be a huge spoiler, but for the older readers, two words: soylent green. If we were to have a future without a government and instead a tyrant company, well, I sure as hell would not want to live in it. So I guess Howard's message is more like "uh, guys, we should probably start watching these Big Pharma/Con-Agra-types when they're messing with our food supply". Or something to that effect. And we're not bludgeoned over the head with it.
Final verdict? If you're into cyberpunk, dystopia, biopunk or just plain ol' sci-fi, this is the book for you. And if you're just dipping your toes into the sub-genre pools, this is a great starter book. Just read it, okay? "Rootless" is out now through Scholastic in North America, and its place on my best of 2012 list is well-deserved. Be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)”
“In this dystopian novel every single tree has been cut down, leaving a world filled with dust storms, no wildlife, and no source of food other than popcorn. GenTech, a rich corporation, controls the growing, buying and selling of corn killing anyone who dares grow or steal their corn.
Read the rest of my review at: http://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/rootless-chris-howard/”