The Tree Man by David Bernstein

The Tree Man by David Bernstein
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Can two kids alone stop a monstrous evil?

Women and children have been mysteriously disappearing from Evan’s town. And now Evan may know why. He was climbing a tree in the woods when he saw a decrepit old man toss a helpless woman into the mouth of a hideous tree-like creature.

Evan knows he can’t stop the man and the creature by himself, but he also knows no one will believe a kid with such a wild story. Only his best friend, Peter, can help him confront this terrifying evil. But if they aren’t careful, they will soon be missing too.

It’s easy to overlook something supernatural if it’s nestled into completely ordinary surroundings. No one takes a walk in the woods expecting to see anything other than trees, flowers, and the occasional animal. That is, until now.

Evan is a likeable and completely believable thirteen year old boy whose frightening experience in the woods one afternoon made me eager to follow him deeper into what is really happening in his community. Despite his young age this is definitely not a young adult novel. There are some truly disturbing scenes in this book, and while Evan’s response to them was well worth my time, the material is too dark for readers his age.

I was caught off guard by all but one of the plot twists in this novella. While the one I figured out was slightly too easy to anticipate in advance, it was exciting to be surprised by such an unexpected ending that fit into the themes and atmosphere of earlier scenes so well. This is a great choice for anyone who loves truly original science fiction.

The metaphors in this story are also quite memorable. My favourite one compares a certain character’s presence to a “cockroach creeping across a freshly made coconut cream pie.” The author saves his most vivid imagery for special occasions, but I eagerly anticipated discovering each new one as the plot progresses.

The Tree Man is a must-read for anyone who loves the horror or science fiction genres. Its exceptional storytelling is overshadowed only by the thrilling plot twists that made it impossible for me to put this book down.

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