What's a famous archaeologist to do when she receives an uninformative
message from a woman she barely remembers on a planet she's
never heard of? Investigate, of course! What happened on Tollip's
World 8,000 years ago? What's the origin of the electrical
discharges beneath the planet's surface? Why is there a greenhouse
in the middle of a jungle? And what are the Trees of Life...?
Bernice Summerfield book, another life-themed title. Ah well,
it's a good antidote to Doctor Who's surfeit of ...of
Death titles, I suppose.
are some intriguing ideas in The Tree of Life, not
least of which are the trees themselves and the other strange
life forms of Tollip's World, the animal species of which
have been wiped out by a mysterious virus several millennia
the supporting characters, including an old archaeologist
chum of Bernice called Liso Fortuna, Liso's rather inept wannabe
boyfriend Piotr Volkov, and a tough military commander by
the name of Bleize, aren't the most interesting creations
ever to be set down on paper. Even Ms Jones, the Braxiatel
Collection's chief administrator, seems out of character,
having reverted to her uptight and officious pre-Life
During Wartime persona.
least the Professor herself comes across well. Indeed, the
essence of her wry attitude towards life pervades the entire
narrative, thanks to rich descriptions such as: "If the inside
of the base had been warm and sweaty, then the outside was...
well, warmer and sweatier," and observations such as: "...why
build a greenhouse in the middle of a tropical jungle? It
was like building a fridge in the middle of the Antarctic.
Oh, she remembered: they did have fridges in the middle
of the Antarctic, didn't they - to keep ice cores and whatnot
from melting. Bad comparison."
The author also managed to fool me into believing that he
had made a mistake regarding Benny's assumed identity, Anghela
Maru, when in fact it was a clue all along.
So the book isn't a waste of precious trees after all.
One final question, though: given that there is more than
one such tree on Tollip's World, why isn't this novel called
The Trees of Life?