The Cloven: The Vorrh, Book 3

B. Catling. Vintage, $16.95 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-101-97274-8
Catling’s creative imagination is again very much on display, but newcomers to his Vorrh fantasy trilogy, and even those who haven’t refreshed their memories of the earlier books, are likely to be baffled by this concluding volume (following 2017’s The Erstwhile). The Vorrh is a vast and dangerous African forest that is reported to contain “the remains of paradise where the great tree of knowledge grew.” In Catling’s alternate creation story, humans were never intended to be more than tenders of the Garden of Eden, and divine knowledge was meant only for the trees. Adam eating the forbidden fruit initiated a struggle between trees and people that continues to play out in a very alternate 20th century. As the plants modify the gases they emit to increase human conflict, the Vorrh comes under assault from German soldiers. The portrayal of plants as the intended dominant life-form is intriguing, but the stories of myriad characters, including real-life South African naturalist Eugène Marais, are harder to engage with. The dense plotting and complex backstory make this installment inaccessible to all but devoted fans. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 07/17/2018
Genre: Fiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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