At first glance, Mok’s debut novel has many elements in common with a Dan Brown book; there’s a quest for the mythical Eden, a well trodden path to follow, a trio of riddles to solve, and unscrupulous opponents to overcome in SinaCorp. That’s where the similarities end, however.
Mok’s wry sense of humour sets this book apart from other aspirants to Brown’s historical quest throne. The Other Tree never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, which largely serves it well. Having said that, the finale is quite gripping and anything but predictable. (Mok subverts our expectations nicely in the final climactic scenes.)
If I have a criticism, it would be the voices the various point-of-view characters are not varied enough. This becomes particularly noticeable when the viewpoint shifts mid-scene. I also wasn’t clear on Luke’s motivation for risking life and limb around the world until quite late in the book. On the positive side, Mok deftly avoids cliches in the development of the relationship between Chris and Luke.
Overall, this is an impressive debut and certainly deserving of its 4-star rating. Taken in conjunction with Mok’s various short stories, The Other Tree marks the emergence of a talented new writer on the Australian speculative fiction scene.