I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.
Imagine if The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons had been written by an author with a sense of humor. That’s The Other Tree, by Australian writer D.K. Mok. Mok weaves together religious history, geology, botany, and art history with a healthy (more than healthy) dose of sarcasm and wit to create this highly entertaining quest for that other tree mentioned in the Book of Genesis: the Tree of Life.
Chris Arlin is working as a struggling cryptobotanist in a struggling university. Her father is dying of lung cancer and her mother died while on an expedition funded by SinaCorp to find the Tree of Life. The CEO of SinaCorp is on a quest to find immortality at any cost and when a representative of the company approaches Chris about joining another expedition, Chris tells them to drop dead. With the help of a priest who’s losing his faith, Chris races to find the Garden of Eden before SinaCorp does. The trip takes them to Italy, Romania, Australia, and deep into the Iraqi desert. As Chris and Luke (the priest) piece together the millennia old clues that lead to the Garden, they have to contend with attacks from SinaCorp and a mysterious third party that doesn’t want anyone to find the Garden.
I realize that this summary of The Other Tree makes the story sound just like those religious thrillers. That’s what the book would be if it weren’t for the fact that Mok doesn’t take anything seriously. There are snarky similes and absurd allusions all over the place to keep the tone light for all but the very end of the book, when the race between Chris and SinaCorp comes to its final confrontation. There is no chance of taking things seriously in this book. There are times when you actually want Mok to ease off the witticisms a bit because they are everywhere. Mok doesn’t have the (seemingly) effortless humor of Terry Pratchett or Tom Holt, but she’s not too far off the mark.
I had a great time reading The Other Tree. It reminded me a lot of Christopher Moore’s more comic novels. Those books and The Other Tree have strong characters and a strong enough plot to support a lot of hilarity.