Below the Root – Zilpha K Snyder

I found this book ‘Below the Root’ long ago, in sixth grade, and it changed my reading habits for good.Below the Root - original cover

4/5 stars from my current-day self.

But in grade 6, I would have given this 5/5 stars.

The Greensky trilogy was bigger in my mind than the Dark is Rising, or the Taran Wanderer books, or Arthur Clarke, because Greensky and Raamo engaged my imagination both personally and emotionally, but also with science fiction and fantasy thrown in.

In book one of this trilogy, our hero Raamo is a bit of a slacker… prone to sitting and pondering things when he could be applying himself to more serious efforts.  He does not have any obvious talents that he’s aware of – just the usual residual telekinesis and telepathy that everyone on this low-gravity colony planet has.

However, there are dark secrets behind this idyllic world… so the story unfolds and I will leave you to read it…

Decades later as a reader, it’s interesting historically to see how ‘seventies’ this world of Greensky could be considered.  Peace-and-love and wissen-berries to mellow you out whenever you don’t feel sufficiently at one with the world. Luckily for the adult readers, it’s not the utopia that you might think.

Don’t sell-short the complexity that a tween should find in the story.  Do you trust blindly in authority? Raamo does at first.  The mechanics of living in the trees are enjoyably worked out, from explaining how houses are made to how commuters commute.  And, since my German vocabulary improved a lot after 6th grade, I enjoyed all the germanic words for things, like Erdlings, wissen-berries, and I think more.  Probably the most juvenile or dated aspect is simply how short and compact the book itself is.  Anyhow, give this one to your kids… though not an edition with the twee 1990’s cover.

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  1. #1 by Jay Young on April 21, 2011 - 11:14 pm

    That cover makes my teeth itch, partly because I was so steamed that the original brilliantly atmospheric Raible covers weren’t used or included in the text. Those pictures told half the story!

    Did you play the video game? I was hooked on it for years. There is a version for the c64 emulator but I can’t always get it to work. There is someone working on a Windows version with ZKS’ blessing.

    • #2 by Sandy M. on April 22, 2011 - 12:40 am

      Yes, I’ve heard of the game, but never played it. Raamo can be rescued in the end, right 🙂 ? I emailed ZKS back in March (2011) to tell her how great I’d thought the trilogy was, and she mentioned that in her reply. 🙂 🙂

      thanks for the screen-shot

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