The Tree of Life

Roots: The Lord of the Rings (more specifically, Ents). There are references to Hansell and Gretel (the Gingerbread house), Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy), Grizzly Adams, Pandora's Box, Kylie Minogue's "Better the Devil You Know", The Wizard of Oz, David Copperfield (Uriah Heep), and Einstein.

Continuity: Tollip's World is named after Hugo Tollip, the man who bought it. The planet is five hours' journey by shuttle from Dali Prime. It is one hundred and eighty light years from the Braxiatel Collection, on the same side of the Bloomingdale Nebula. Tollip's World is covered in jungle. The planet has a twenty-six hour day. It has a single moon. There are no animals on the planet by 2606 AD except for a small collection of insects. There are also microbes and numerous plants. A virus modified by the trees wiped out the native fauna eight thousand years earlier before the trees chemically inactivated it. The virus interfered with the key stages of oogenesis, causing mass sterility. The intelligent inhabitants of Tollip's World (which Benny dubs "hammies") resemble Pakhars, but are larger, their heads reaching human shoulder height. Their rib cages are made of overlapping bony plates. They had indigo eyes, and could walk on all four legs, or just their hind pair. Their fur was like matt leather, shaded purple, blue, green and grey. They didn't use technology, since the planet provided everything they needed. They developed a close symbiotic relationship with the plants, especially the Trees of Life. The trees became part animal and learned how to think, and the hammies became part plant, with the ability to photosynthesise. Apes with grey and black striped fur hunted them; the trees created the virus to wipe out the apes, but miscalculated. When the hammies realized what was happening, they persuaded the Trees to grow extra brain tissue and used it to store they minds; they continue to exist in a virtual reality created by the Trees and their own minds. The Trees were supposed to wake the hammies when they had cured the virus but got confused and failed to do so. They transmit copies of the minds as electrical impulses through their roots, which can enter human bodies and take them over by suppressing the host mind. The hammies do not hold the originals responsible for the behaviour of the copies, which occasionally do not act like the originals. The Trees of Life took an active part in the reproduction of the hammies; the females deposited their eggs inside the Trees, then the males fertilized them. The Trees then modified the eggs before returning them to the females for gestation. The hammies knew of other stars, but didn't know that other worlds orbited them. Orange-sized fruits that taste like grapes grow on Tollip's World. When Tollip's team leave the planet, they release the uninfected test animals (including rats, monkeys and pigs) into the jungle. Morweningart intends to use these animals, plus stored cells from the planet's original fauna, to restore her world to how it was before the virus was created, once the humans have left.

Benny adopts the alias Anghela Maru when investigating Liso's disappearance on Tollip's World. Maru is supposedly an archaeologist specializing in pre-technological civilizations, freelancing for one of the big agencies and with eight years experience exploring the Outer Worlds of the Inner Zone, with commendations for her work on Pallusis. Benny doesn't know Liso Fortuna very well, having met her only at a couple of lectures in palaeobotany and anthroposymbology they both attended some years earlier, plus a drunken night they spent one of the bars. Benny's work was nearly the subject of a docudrama, which fell through because she insisted on having her own dresser, make-up cabinet, script approval, and an unlimited mini-bar. Mould is one of the few things that instinctively makes her gag; she can't eat bread with even a hint of mould on it. Benny owns a sonic trowel, which is perfect for loosening centuries of accumulated soil. Benny has coffee and cheese and egg sandwiches whilst being questioned by Tollip. She gets a fungal infection at the top of her ear whilst on Tollip's World. In order to defeat Assapartemya, she uses the Trees to put a copy of her mind into nearly everyone in Tollip's base. To Benny's distress, the copy of her in Tollip's body is killed along with him when he is shot. She reincorporates all surviving eighty copies of herself back into her own mind once Assapartemya is defeated.

Peter is now two years old. Adrian bought him a big stuffed rabbit for his first birthday.

Joseph has an intelligence rating of 45; in order for Benny to take him to Tollip's World, where AIs with an intelligence rating greater than 20 are prohibited, he has to disable some of his upgrades, lose some of his memory and processing power, and install some "very illegal" ex-military software in order to appear less intelligent than he actually is.

There are regular shuttles from the Braxiatel Collection to Dali Prime.

The Cathedral of St Magestine is on Cappulah IX. The Festival of the Unrepentant Whores takes place on Uhlala. Tollip's base of operations is on Gemmeda.

Sasoons prefer jungle worlds.

Links: There is a reference to the Fifth Axis occupation (Life During Wartime, Death and the Daleks). Benny notes that Peter could technically be said to have four parents (see Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Squire's Crystal - the four are her, Jason, Adrian, and Avril). She also recalls being in somebody else's body (Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Squire's Crystal). There is a reference to the Galyari (The Sandman, Dreamtime, Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Bone of Contention). Benny recalls nearly losing the rights to her own identity (The Dead Men Diaries: Digging up the Past). She recalls the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. There is a reference to Zygons (Terror of the Zygons, The Bodysnatcher).

Ms Jones coldly warns Benny that she needs to spend more time raising Peter, leading into the events of Something Changed.

Location: The Braxiatel Collection and Tollip's World, circa January 2606 AD.

Future History: Hugo Tollip is one of the sector's richest men, and made his fortune by the acquisition of planets considered too difficult to mine or colonize by anyone else. He calls all the planets that he buys "Tollip's World" until he sells or names them. He buys Tollip's World circa early 2605 AD, when it is discovered by one of his fly-by camera ships.

Unrecorded Adventures: Bernice once investigated tunnels on Dagomere that turned out to have been made by giant rabbits. She crawled through the tunnels on her belly for weeks.

Benny has seen death vaults on Chook.

The Bottom Line: Nicely written, with a well thought out alien world, and some great characters. Quite charming and a pleasant change from the recent event-driven anthologies.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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