Below the Root (1975)

BelowTheRoot

The first part of the Greensky trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder looks – from the cover design to how the story initially unfolds – like a generic coming of age story in a sort of fantasy setting, though it becomes soon obvious that despite seemingly supernatural powers by its characters (probably explained away as psionics or some such) that underneath everything is beating a science fiction heart.

It’s the story of an Earth colony that tried to do away with violence and create their own little paradise on a far away world. To some degree they seem to have succeeded, though from the start there are hints that behind the peaceful and solemn facade something darker is lurking. Or, well, at least not so nice.

If the book has one big weakness, it’s that the world of Greensky and its population up in the trees seem to be inspired by the worst excesses of peaceful counterculture, which translate into extremely wimpy, super-nice characters who flinch even at the though of someone using violence or show disgust at the though of eating meat. While the first book in the trilogy is rather short, it’s still annoying to follow these characters for any length of time, to see that ridiculous mindset mirrored in nearly every characters, both the good and the bad guys.

Idealism is a nice thing, but even an idealist grows angry from time to time. Snyder’s characters feel eerily, even uncomfortably alien, because they behave nothing like real humans, not even truly, peaceful humans. More like a stock of drugged sheep waiting for the slaughter, deeply astonished when even the slightest evidence is presented that their world isn’t truly as simple and peaceful as they expected. It’s all so cozy and nice it made me want to punch the whole lot of them.