The Merro Tree

~by Katie Waitman
1998 Compton Crook Award Winner
1998 Locus Award Nominee
1999 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee
2000 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee
2001 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee

Mikk, once an awkward and shy boy, has grown up to be the galaxy's most celebrated performance master. The book begins with Mikk imprisoned and awaiting his trial for performing a banned art-form, the Somalite songdance. From there, the narrative relates Mikk's life from his birth, through his apprenticeship, to his ascension to master. Interspersed amongst the chapters are "Entr'actes" that follow Mikk's current imprisonment. Eventually, these two story-lines merge to form a tumultuous finale--Mikk must give the performance of his life, or lose it.

The novel touches upon some big issues--censorship, sexuality, and xenophobia to name a few--couching them in a delightful story. The relationship between Mikk, a Vyzanian, and Thissizz, a Droos, is wonderfully sweet. Being a musician myself, I loved the significance given performing arts in the book. Kate Waitman has created a myriad of worlds and a myriad of fascinating characters (some more compelling than others). She did seem to gloss over the background quite a bit, but she did manage to convey a large quantity of story material regardless.

A fairly strong debut novel, it has some problems (many of the descriptive details must be inferred and much is underdeveloped), but overall I found it to be very good and I very much enjoyed it--perhaps more than I expected. It really is a shame that it is currently out of print. Waitman has written a sequel, tentatively entitled The Roots of Forgiveness, which is currently unpublished. I would awfully like to read it, though!