The Family Tree

By Sheri S. Tepper

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Avon Books, 1997

Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, time travel fantasy, eco-fiction


Intended audience: Adults

Number of pages: 480

Settings: An unnamed American city and future landscapes and cities

Time period: The year 2000 and three thousand years in the future

Plot summary: Police officer Dora Henry is investigating the murder of a well liked scientist and discovers a link between this murder and and two other recent murders. All of the victims had been geneticists.  Meanwhile, strange new plants are sprouting up almost everywhere and the city is being transformed into a jungle. People who try to stop the plants from growing are winding up in hospitals.  And somewhere far away a varied assortment of peoples are embarking on a quest for they fear for their future and the safety of their people.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: While quite a bit of action happens in this story, the characters and plot are revealed more slowly throughout the first half of the book to immerse the reader in the complexities of the story.  There are two main plotlines which combine into one about two thirds into the book.

Characterization: Most of the book is told in third person; however, there is a first person point of view which appears more often in the beginning of the book, but continues throughout the story.  Many characters are involved in this story and are developed throughout the whole book.

Frame: The setting of an unnamed US western city is representative of any American town or city and contributes to the overarching frame of wildness vs. civilization.

Story Line: A fun story which addresses serious issues of the current treatment of the planet and all of earth’s beings in a speculative way.  Very well written; the story comes together perfectly.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:
Science fiction.
Plants — Fiction

Similar authors:

From NoveLists read-alikes for Sheri S. Tepper (by Rachel Singer Gordon):

Margaret Atwood
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Octavia E. Butler
James Tiptree Jr.
Marge Piercy

Personal notes:

I loved this book!  It held many surprises for me and kept me laughing throughout the story.  I am disappointed by the review on Amazon from Library Journal which claims that this is a preachy book.  However, I do imagine that this book would appeal more to environmentalists than to people who don’t give a hoot about their environment. [Annotated 9/28/08]

Other (themes, diversity):

Diversity – female police officers


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