Admit it, when someone you know sends you a copy of their self-published novel, or for that matter their demo tape, or a gallery of their paintings, you cringe a little. You may be genuinely interested in what they’ve done, but you also feel a touch of dread. This is a work of art, a deeply personal expression of their thoughts and feelings. If it sucks, well…that’s gonna be awkward.
Imagine how great it feels when you get three pages in and you can’t put it down. That’s what it was like reading Tree of Knowledge from Scott Bonasso. Sorry for doubting, man. That’s reason #542 that I’m a jerk.
Tree of Knowledge is a science fiction mystery presented as an investigation. After his brother’s apparent suicide, HG Pruitt found a collection of documents and recordings related to his life. Tree of Knowledge is Pruitt’s edited compilation of his brother’s materials along with commentary on his discoveries.
Constructing a story about the mind-bendingly weird world of theoretical physics atop the fragmented, dubiously reliable basis of a collection of found materials is a stroke of genius. The story is a layer cake of mysteries. There’s no sure footing in this tale. Reading it is like dancing on a stack of balls, with the tension building from page to page as you question the veracity and even the sanity of the sources.
The physics on which the story is premised is well-researched, entirely real, and utterly impossible to reconcile with our expectations of reality. Bonasso manages to weave his characters though this increasingly strange account without losing any of the story’s complex threads, finally landing them all in an ending that still sticks with me.
Tree of Knowledge is a plot-driven thriller. The story is lean, fast, and exciting with openings for a sequel. Typical for the style, character development is perhaps not what it could be. The plot and the science beneath it were enough to keep me turning pages. It isn’t poetry, but I was sad to see it end.
That Bonasso self-published this work is a reminder of how much quality fiction is being produced now through unconventional channels. His story would make a fantastic screenplay, or even the basis of a series. You can get your own copy here.