The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
A Story of Passion and Daring

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It’s probably unfair to compare this book with Preston’s well-known earlier works — for drama, it’s hard to measure up to a lethal virus. But the subtitle promises “A Story of Passion and Daring,” and too little of that passion comes across.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustained–the coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored.

The canopy voyagers are young–just college students when they start their quest–and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there’s nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.

The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called “fire caves.” Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to one’s death.

Preston’s account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists’ passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Trees–the story of the fate of the world’s most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Richard Preston

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Michael Crichton has sold over 200 million books, which have been translated into thirty-six languages; thirteen of his books have been made into films. His novels include "Next", "State of Fear", "Timeline", "Jurassic Park", and "The Andromeda Strain". Also known as a filmmaker and the creator of "ER", he remains the only writer to have had the number-one book, movie, and TV show simultaneously. At the time of Crichton's death in 2008, he was well into the writing of "Micro"; Richard Preston was selected to complete the novel. Richard Preston is an internationally acclaimed best-selling author of eight books, including "The Hot Zone" and "The Wild Tree"s. Many of Preston's books have first appeared in "The New Yorker". He has won numerous awards, including the American Institute of Physics Award and the National Magazine Award, and he is the only person not a medical doctor to receive the Centers for Disease Control's Champion of Prevention Award for public health. He lives with his wife and three children near Princeton, New Jersey.
 
Published April 10, 2007 by Random House. 320 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Wild Trees
All: 1 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Kate Zernike on Apr 22 2007

It’s probably unfair to compare this book with Preston’s well-known earlier works — for drama, it’s hard to measure up to a lethal virus. But the subtitle promises “A Story of Passion and Daring,” and too little of that passion comes across.

Read Full Review of The Wild Trees: A Story of Pa... | See more reviews from NY Times

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