Donald's Reviews > The Red Tree

The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

did not like it
Read in January, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Yaay, lesbian horror/suspense fiction . . .

This book is well-written; I simply didn't like it. I didn't like the main character at any point during the book, which makes it difficult to care about what may happen to her. If I hadn't had to read it for work, it wouldn't have passed the 100-page test, which made the remaining 280+ pages tedious.

The book goes with the idea that this is an unfinished manuscript by an author who was writing a journal while living in a house near a supposed "evil tree." She finds the unfinished manuscript of a professor who had lodged in the same rental house and killed himself, supposedly because of something to do with the tree and the research on it and local scary tales he was doing. So, the book starts with an "editor's note" that tells us what's going on, which basically ruins the book because it says the author died. Great, thanks. And so, most of the book is the author's rambling, digressing journal entries, interspersed with portions of the professor's ms. she types into her journal so we know what she's been reading and obsessing over.

The problem is that the journal entries are just that: journal entries and therefore first-person narrative. This allows the author of this book basically to write whatever bizarre stuff comes into her head and justify it as "journaling." She even goes so far as to have her author-character tell us she digresses, apparently so we'll be okay with it. It's not okay. It's annoying. The author also uses lots of dreams that the author-character tells us about and then gives us a diatribe (in the author-character's voice) about using dreams in fiction, and readers (us) should accept the dreams and the unreliability of first-person narrators and just "get over it." Oh, well, since you said we could . . .

It's also a lot of build-up that leads basically nowhere. We know early on that she dies, so the abrupt end of the journals does nothing to make us scared or uneasy. The whole tree thing is so diluted by the professor's ramblings in his ms. that by the time she figures out just what the tree is, we already pretty much know that, and it's not that interesting.
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