Every now and then, you read a book that just blows you away. That was my experience with The Merro Tree, which also won the Compton Crook award for 1998, and won or was nominated for several other prizes. It’s about a performance artist and his troupe, and the troubles they get into. It’s also a moving story about genius, set in a thoroughly conceived and intensely interesting universe.
I loved The Merro Tree, and kept looking around for other work by Ms. Waitman. I didn’t find any, and soon after I was living in places where books were hard to find. The only thing I saw on Amazon was something called The Divided, in a trade paperback in 1999. I have a strong aversion to trade paperbacks (all the durability of paperback, and the convenience of hardback!), so I thought I’d wait for the mass market version. It never came, so finally, over a decade later, I ordered the trade version after all.
The Divided is a very different book from The Merro Tree. It’s an SF story focused on a long-standing struggle between two human groups on a far off planet. It was not as well received as The Merro Tree, and is not as compelling, but still a good story.
Those two books are all there is. Waitman says she’s still writing, and may someday look to publish again. I hope she does. Her writing is a clear, exciting mix of (somehow) Jack Vance and John Varley, and it’s well worth looking into. If you live near a good used bookstore, go looking for The Merro Tree. You’ll be very glad you did. If you don’t, try writing to Del Rey an asking them to bring it back as an e-book. If they listen, they’ll be glad they did.
Have you read Katie Waitman? Who’s your favorite low intensity author?