Trees Unlimited
by Clem Masloff
BookVenture Publishing

"It was Rambatan who showed me that general liberation had to become the aim of my actions."

When Landia’s prominent leaf collector Gimel Vexa and his daughter, Lea, get invited to view a unique leaf collection belonging to Mem Samekh, they are oblivious to how their lives will change as they enter a new rainforest world. From the get-go, the Vexa duo encounters a half-naked, bronze-skinned Varzean man on their way to Mem Samekh’s latifundium. The narrative centers around trees, their immense power, and how they can change the world by interacting with technology. However, nested within the dense forestland are major undercurrents of tension brewing between Mem Samekh and the Varzeans, who were the original owners of the land that currently houses the Samekh’s plantation.

The worldbuilding in this novel is unique and believable, transporting readers into a tropical rainforest rife with conflict, augmented Afaran giants, and ekki trees that are technologically altered through the use of optical klystrons and special synchronizers to increase the rate of photosynthesis. While the world is rich with details, the plot can at times be helter-skelter in its pacing. Nevertheless, the character of dendrologist Resh Zayeth, a central figure, provides a refreshing take on concepts such as technological innovation, resiliency, and revolution—all vital themes in Masloff’s work.

Prior to the story, Resh and his friend, Chak, are alone in their ambitious plans for the trees and desire to expose the mistreatment of the Varzeans. With the entry of Lea and her union with Thav, Mem Samekh’s sister, a series of events are triggered that leaves all the main characters with no choice but to pick the side they believe is right and just.

Stylistically, Masloff’s writing is fluid and easy to read with a strong plotline that has the potential to be even more developed and engaging. The author touches on numerous themes that relate to the modern world of racism, segregation, and bias. For instance, the Varzeans losing their lands and being forced to work for latifundium owners just for mere survival bears a striking similarity to the slavery era. When Thav and Lea learn more about the Varzeans, they realize they are much more than brutes looking to upend Mem Samekh and ignite a rebellion. On the contrary, both parties become privy to the other’s humanity. In the case of the Varzeans, Tochsylvania belonged to them and was inherited from their ancestors. When the planters cut down the trees in which the tarva, or the human spirit, resides according to Varzean beliefs, they are dealt the ultimate blow to their culture and traditions.

Perhaps what makes these characters and plotline compelling is the notion that each character is on his or her own “hero’s journey.” Whether it is Lea, Thav, Resh, the tribal chief Rambatan, or the Varzean leader Yod Teth, they are all fighting for something that others may perceive as wrong but are strong-willed enough to see their journeys and objectives through. Moreover, Masloff raises pertinent questions about the future of Mother Nature and whether augmenting nature in its many resources through a fusion of synthetically and naturally generated resources could be an overall benefit to mankind’s future generations. On a cursory level, for instance, CalTech researchers are reporting that our rainforests are disappearing at approximately 6,000 acres per hour. Could technology augment and reestablish our rainforests before the damage is entirely irreversible? Masloff’s thought-provoking story sparks a variety of questions: Is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons justified? At what point does the end no longer justify the means? Overall, innovative ideas and rich worldbuilding make this a meaningful read.

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