10 years ago, the Trees arrived. Huge pillar structures landed all over the Earth and lay dormant except occasionally extruding some sort of toxic waste that melts everything it touches. In those 10 years there has been no sign the trees are even aware of our existence. Life has continues on Earth, but the presence of the Trees has changed things. New political structures emerged, cities around the Trees are abandoned to the crime syndicates, and artists. At a Norwegian Tree, strange black flowers are growing and the scientists stationed there are baffled by what they find. The Trees don’t seem to be dormant at all. There hasn’t been activity above ground, but under it is a different story.
This first volume is a lot of world building and introductions until the explosive final few pages. The story Warren Ellis is telling is epic and the book is grandiose. We are introduced to a lot of characters in different parts of the world. There is Chenglia, an artist studying at the city of Shu, built around a tree in China. Marsh, a scientist who discovers the black flowers in Norway. Eligia, girlfriend to a local small time crime lord in Cefalu, Italy. Vince, mayoral candidate for embattled New York City. And President Caleb Rahim, leader of Somalia with a plan to use his nearby Tree as a staging ground for war with neighboring Puntaland. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and compelling and the diverse cast makes it enjoyable spending time in each story.
The story has some twists at the end of this first volume but is more about setting the characters on their journeys than it is major plot points. The book is more drama than action, and the different tone and characters from one location to the other makes the story feel like a large HBO drama. The story in Shu is largely a coming of age tale, as Chenglia falls in love with a transsexual woman names Zhen. While the story in Cefalu is one of a criminal empire overthrow. The events in Norway play out much more like a science fiction thriller, as the black flowers are revealed to disrupt electronics and communications, but the purpose is unknown.
The art work from Jason Howard is beautiful, vibrant and used to clearly show the different settings as the story jumps back and forth between them. The artistic enclave Shu is shown in many colors, the Norway research station is largely blue, Bosnia is largely brown. It works well and results in some gorgeous panels.
For a new science fiction series, Trees: Volume 1 gets things off to an intriguing start. For fans of smart, character based science fiction there is a lot to like in this first volume. I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.