Tree of Knowledge

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.


Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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49 comments on “Tree of Knowledge
  1. Juarez says:

    It was really interesting reading the discussions below about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. You’re an insightful bunch: most of what you speculated about is actuality.

    The traditional publishing industry is indeed very “closed” to new authors. I sent my first novel, “Juarez,” to about 20 different publishers and publishing agents. Nothing. Not even a bite. It’s an incredibly time-consuming and disheartening process. Very rarely do publishers/agents pick up new, unknown talent these days. They don’t gamble. They go with writers who already have an established platform, readership, etc. Or, like Kabuzz said, they have their own little closed group of authors that they stick with; kind of like a theater company.

    However, they are watching the self-publishing industry. It is said that once a self-published book reaches 5,000 in sales, the traditional publishing houses take notice. They are in the business of making money after all.

    Self-publishing is indeed like the lottery. Unless you have tens of thousands of your own dollars to promote and advertise, you’ve reliant on the quality of your book, the range of appeal, word-of-mouth recommendations, and a lot of luck. All it takes, though, is one viral spark, so you never know. (You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket!)

    Many self-published authors fall somewhere in the middle of obscurity and fame. They have a substantial, loyal readership, but not the following it takes to allow the writer to quit their day job. That’s where I am. Between my two novels, I’ve sold hundreds of books, and have readers who follow me; but the big publishing houses haven’t come calling yet and I still have my day job. Right now, writing is a fun hobby for me.

    My thanks to Chris for posting a review on his blog. And my thanks to the participants on here who have bought my book. Here’s hoping this is a small viral spark. 🙂


  2. Juarez says:

    I think Chris has great taste in books, as well as a natural talent for writing book reviews. 😉

  3. rightonrush says:

    OT, but look who is in the armed militia pretending to guard the border.

    • John Galt says:

      A frequent refrain from second amendment aficionados is that we have plenty of gun laws and we just need to enforce the ones already on the books. Here’s a clear example of one such aficionado blatantly breaking the law. This is not him keeping a gun for self defense, either, it’s him patrolling in a quasi-law enforcement role obviously intending to point the gun he is carrying illegally at other human beings. So much for “responsible gun ownership.”

  4. tuttabellamia says:

    Cool. This blog has morphed into a book club, or reading circle. Lifer once considered travel writing. Now he is writing book reviews, here and on Amazon.

  5. John Galt says:

    A parallel to Chris’s “reminder of how much quality fiction is being produced now through unconventional channels” is that there is so much of it that finding things that won’t be a waste of time can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Personal recommendations become even more important, so I’ll check this one out.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      I wonder what the increase in self publication is doing to the publishing industry.

      To grow expand your point, almost anyone can self publish almost anything at a moderately low cost. Sorting through the variability in quality is nearly impossible, so personal recommendations become more important.

      It makes me wonder if it this has made it easier or harder for quality writers to get noticed by publishers. It is my understanding that it is difficult to get a good agent and publisher for your work. One hopes that quality writing gets readily recognized, but like most things, the best things are not always immediately found.

      Does a new author take the relatively easier route of self publication or go through the long slog of finding an agent and publisher?

      Going with self publication gets you more quickly to the satisfaction of getting your work out there, but the marketing is limited and reliance on word of mouth doesn’t generally sell you a million books or necessarily get your work anywhere near my radar screen.

      Self publication gets more work out there, and in terms of raw numbers, more quality work out there, but without the infrastructure of traditional agents/publishers, most folks will never hear about this quality work.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I guess I am showing my age, but personally, I can be rather snobbish and distrustful of anything not issued by a traditional publisher and not having a professional editor. That goes for online sources as well. That’s why I rarely take links to news sites here seriously. I don’t even bother to click on them. Even ebooks of classic works are plagued with misspellings. If it’s not in print, I have trouble taking it seriously. However, I have to remind myself that there’s a lot of trash out there in print, too. But at least it has proper editing.

      • rightonrush says:

        Tutt, you are an extremely bright and articulate lady. Perhaps you could edit books for e book authors, and I’m being serious when I suggest that.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Thanks, Rush. Editing and proofreading are definitely my strong points. I guess they make up for my lack of creativity. I have always been better at critiquing the work of others than writing my own stuff.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        For serious writers, self publication is the only outlet. Standard publishing houses on have a small number of authors they would invest money to market. It is an incredibly closed business. Publishers do not accept manuscripts and agents rarely will.

        My first book has been through a progessional editor and it costs but well worth it. I have the artwork for the cover done by a graphics artist I know. This book has been scanned for purchase 88,000 copies. Much more than I expected. It is available all over the world and my sales are great in England and Japan.

        There are marketing packages and such that cost varying amounts but I chose just the press release.

        There are some ‘writers’ that publsh stuff that isn’t edited or has very little content. Through Amazon writers forums, Amazon will now have a standard of what they will make available which is to say only real books, not blank pages, etc.

        The next one of mine will come out in November and another in Spring of 2015.

        I am having a blast and I enjoy the feedback from my readers.

        There is no right or wrong with self or standard publishing, but like newspapers, standard publishing houses have been slow to react to technology.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Kabuzz, thanks for the information. It is fascinating to read about the world of ebook publishing, straight from an ebook author.

      • objv says:

        Tuttabella, If we were to take a vote on this blog, you would be the one who would win in the category of creativity. Don’t sell yourself short, young lady!

        Ask yourself if perfectionism and possibly fear of failure is holding you back. I enjoy your writing style and, most of all, your clever sense of humor.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Kabuzz wrote “My first book has been through a progessional editor” and it gave me a smile.

        More to the point, a cousin to my spouse uses a pen name to write, um, well, smutty romances, though often with a fantasy or steampunk element. Apparently those sell like hotcakes in the e-market. But “Delphine” stays very busy attending conferences and conventions, keeping up an online presence, communicating and collaborating with other authors, etc. So her sales are driven not only by the quality of her writing but also by the investment of time and effort that she puts into her reading community.

        That tracks fairly well with what I heard in a seminar at WorldCon in San Antonio last year. The traditional publishing route is rather like the lottery: some people strike it big and make lots of money, and many (despite their quality) languish because the pieces don’t happen to all come together in the right way. E-publishing guarantees you an outlet and an audience, but it means that if you don’t want to languish in the same obscurity you must take on for yourself (or pay for) all of the preparation and P.R. work that would be done by the publishing house.

        For a while, traditional publishers apparently weren’t interested in taking on someone who had already been self-published. But the two worlds may be making their peace with each other: “Delphine” just got a contract from Harlequin….

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Hi, H.

      I co-authored a book that was New York published a kazillion years ago, the 80s.

      I’ve thought a lot about how editors on the east coast determined what was publishable for the whole country — and now they don’t. To me, it’s a situation of mixed blessings.

      Because of them, mid-western me knew more about Hester Street in New York than I did about my own literary geography. They chose the books, the topics, the writers for the reading public.

      When my friend and I were writing, finding the appropriate publishing house to approach was key. We got in the door because I had a friend who had a friend in New York who identified the ‘right’ publisher for us.

      He was right, but the information he shared was not available in any writer’s guide. How would a writer in Illinois or any state figure that out? It was more about inside information than quality of manuscript.

      Getting the publisher to actually publicize your work was also an issue. When we took some steps on our own that resulted in radio interviews and newspaper articles, the publisher’s marketing department got all snippy. That was the last we heard of them.

      In the 80s and 90s, publishers were buying other publishers, constricting the industry. Good. Couldn’t happen to a nicer group. I don’t miss those east coast editors. I feel no sorrow for their demise.

      (I was starting a start-up with others at the time the book was published. Potential partners seemed very impressed that one of our team had written a book, so being an ‘author’ turned out to be a business bonus, although the book was not a big seller.)

      JG is right about the wretched excess available now. I just finished a very shallow historical novel that was supposed to be a mystery set in Edwardian times. It was awful. I kept reading just to see if I could figure out the writer’s intent. Nope.

      We should all be better writers and editors. Really. We own it to ourselves. Probably won’t happen in my lifetime, though. We do need editors, it seems.

      The end of a myopic view of publishing history. 🙂

  6. Turtles Run says:

    I bought the book last July and unfortunately have not read it yet. That will change tonight.

  7. way2gosassy says:

    Hard to find the time to read when your up to your neck in paint, plaster and plumbing not to mention boxes full of stuff I haven’t seen in months. I took a mental health day and sat down to read Juarez’ book, really great book and I can’t wait for the next one!

    • rightonrush says:

      Hey, Hey, Hey, Welcome back Sass!!

      • way2gosassy says:

        Thanks, it will be hit and miss for awhile. Gotta be back in Houston on the 17th for hubby’s Dr. appointment and more packing =( then we will be back again at the end of the month to list the house and …….. whatever else is left to do.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Glad to see you again too Sassy! Infrequent or not, always good to hear from you. Good luck in your new homestead!

      • way2gosassy says:

        Thanks Bubba, I’ve missed you guys too!

      • tuttabellamia says:

        There is a character named TOO SASSY in Juarez’s book.

      • objv says:

        Sassy, it’s good to see the eagle avatar again. When you have time, let us know more about your move to Tennessee. You have been missed. 🙂

      • way2gosassy says:

        Hi Tutt! Yes Juarez said I had made a cameo appearance in his book. I am very flattered that he wrote me in.

      • way2gosassy says:

        Thanks Objv! The last trip up here was amazingly insane with 6 dogs, 2 huge trucks and pickup truck that almost died on the way here! We all managed to make it here alive and somewhat sane. We have pretty much finished the ground floor restoration and upgrades and have actually gotten some furniture in the house. (Thank God for the bed!!)
        The upstairs should be done by the weekend. I don’t understand how you can have more “stuff” than house to put it in but we will be going back to Houston to haul back another big truck full of “stuff” that won’t fit! I see a really big yard sale in my near future. I have never worked so hard or been so tired but when it is all done I have a really big front porch and a rocking chair to relax in. I am soooo looking forward to that.

        The community here has been very welcoming and helpful. I have neighbors who have kept my lovely little acre mowed and others who have seen to it that we didn’t starve while the kitchen was being remodeled. I have quite a lot of photos of the work in progress so if I can figure out how to post them without encroaching on anyone’s territory I will.

  8. objv says:

    I usually read before going to bed, so I started “Tree of Knowledge” late one night. Big mistake. I read for until my sleep-addled mind couldn’t keep Scott’s Doppelgangers straight and I finally had to turn in. I finished the next day.

    Considering this is only Scott’s second attempt at writing a book, I found it surprisingly good. What’s not to love about a book where the characters are based on the people who contribute to this blog? You will find Cap and Owl – among others. The “Middle View” in the book is a composite character incorporating characteristics from several people.

    Great job Scott/Juarez!

  9. rightonrush says:

    I ordered a hardback copy. Is this Buzz’s book? If so, step up Buzz and receive your accolades!

    • objv says:

      Tree of Knowledge was written by Juarez.

      • rightonrush says:

        Thanks objv. I thought that Buzz was older than the author Scott Bonasso. However, if it were Buzz I wanted to give him credit. I look forward to reading Juarez book. Our paths have crossed before and I wish him the best of luck.

      • objv says:

        ROR, You’ve been on my mind as I’ve been watching news reports during the last months. You mentioned at one time that you have loved ones living in Israel. I hope and pray all is well.

      • rightonrush says:

        My son and family are fine objv, they live in Haifa. I appreciate your asking about them.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Mine is The Shortcut. Next one out in a couple months.

      • rightonrush says:

        Okay, thanks Buzz, looks like I’ve gotta invest in a Kindle. Hopefully things will slacken up and I’ll be able to read for pleasure.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Ha. THE SHORTCUT. Appropriate title, since you’re not having to take the usual, long route of.traditional publishing.

  10. fiftyohm says:

    Got it!

  11. Hmm. Sounds like a cross between Peter Watts and Gene Wolfe. I’m in! 🙂

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