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It is a small pulp book, perhaps a novella. I think written in the 1970s but possibly earlier. My vague recollection of the cover art, shows a small portion of the tree, rendered mostly in blacks and greens, suggesting depth, darkness and mystery. None of the answers given so far, match the novel.

The tree is sentient, planet-dominating, and godlike but in a physical way (much as I am godlike, to the mites that inhabit my skin). I recall that drumming was used by intelligent native inhabitants, agile climbers, and I think there were tubes inside the great branches that conducted their drum communication from point to point.

The tree is gargantuan, much larger than any of the "world-tree" answers so far given. The branches extend into the clouds, and small rivers run down the bark fissures.

For some reason, I think that this is a future Earth, and the climbers might be distant descendants of humans, but I'm really not sure about that.

These are all images and impressions, which I hope are accurate.

Embarrassingly, I have no recollection whatsoever of the PLOT!

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Did you actually read this book in the '70s, or more recently? If more recently, then when? Jul 11, 2022 at 0:15
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    You repeatedly mention answers that have been given, but as of this writing, there are none. Are you referring to a different question? Jul 11, 2022 at 0:18
  • 5
    If you are referring to another question, you should probably include a link to that question within your own question, to help put those statements in context. Jul 11, 2022 at 0:22
  • Son of the Tree by Jack Vance is a novella about a 12 mile-high tree that is worshipped by an alien race.
    – Nowonmai
    Jul 11, 2022 at 11:47
  • You remind of a story with a flammable river and a malevolent (sentient) storm cloud. The forest protected the river from lightning, until humans arrived and started harvesting lumber. This left a hole in the canopy, which allowed the cloud to strike the river and ignite it. Does this ring any bells?  Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything else (except that I may have read it some time between 1970 and 2000). Jul 12, 2022 at 18:19

7 Answers 7

16

Possibly The stone god awakens by Philip Jose Farmer?

Summary from goodreads.com:

A 20th century scientist is rendered frozen at the molecular level, and then reanimated millennia later by a freak accident to a strange world populated by sentient, anthropomorphic animals, who take his awakening to be the fulfillment of prophecy. He accepts the mantle of godhood and sets about discovering this brave new world, hoping to find clues to the past while finding his place as the last human... or is he? To find the answers he must lead his tribe of feline worshippers to the heart of a rival god- a great tree spanning half a continent.

This book matches everything in your question. It is pulp, a small book (190 pages) and written in 1970. Several covers in black and green with part of a tree exist. The protagonist sets out to find and fight a rival god across an enormous tree, in the end finding out that the tree is sentient and is actually the god he is looking for. In his journey he has to fight the inhabitants of the tree, who are monkey-like climbers and communicate by drumming. The protagonist wonders how it is possible that the drumming carries so far and is so clearly audible and discovers the tubes you mention. He also has to cross and at some point sail rivers flowing down the bark of the tree. Finally, everything happens millions of years in the future, on Earth.

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  • I read that one once, but about all I can remember is that it was written without chapters or other breaks... Jul 11, 2022 at 13:50
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This sounds like the novel "Hothouse" (1962) by Brian Aldiss https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothouse_(novel) It has human descendants living in a giant continent-spanning tree. From memory, the start of the novel was also put out as a separate novella in some collection.

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  • A related book by Aldiss is "The Long Afternoon of Earth," an abridged version published in the US. It's mentioned in the same wikipedia article.
    – Wastrel
    Jul 11, 2022 at 13:08
5

Possibly Class Six Climb by William E. Cochrane.

Class Six Climb

I read it as serial in Analog starting in June 1979, but it was also published as a standalone novel. The story is about a giant tree on the planet Kyle Murre and an attempt to climb it by three Terrans. I don't recall the tree being sentient, but it matches the rest of your description. The story talks about the top of the tree being in the clouds, and the natives of the planet communicate by drumming as you describe. The description of the tree is:

J'Gween felt the morning wind with his ear tendrils and knew what they were seeing. His heart began to beat more rapidly. The Lodge had de­stroyed many trees, but they had opened the viewing lane opened it so that anyone who wanted to, could stand and look ...

He lifted his head, formed the slow phrases of the greeting prayer in his mind and opened his eyes to look long, and lovingly at the god he served. The Tree of Kyle Murre. The Master of the Forest.

The Tree was a solitary giant, tow­ering above the rest of the forest, framed alone in the view-lane, and isolated by the clouds that still hid its top. The Tree was a lonely giant, a god, unapproachable even in the mag­nificence of the high forest. Judging by the conical shape of the other trees, the clouds cut off half its height. The lower branches were just visible in the bottom of the cloud layer, the rest of its towering height and tree-shape was shadowy and invisible as the clouds thickened through the branches.

4

"Doomtime" or "Earth in Twilight" by Doris Piserchia?

Doris Piserchia, one of the (undeservedly) lesser known writers of the US new wave of science fiction, has two short novels (both from 1981) with giant trees. It has been so long since I read them that I can't vouch for all the details, but both are quite short, take place on future Earths, and the time frame fits, more or less. I hope that this answer at least can serve to eliminate two books.

Doomtime (subtitled The War of the World Trees). 173 pages.

enter image description here

Quoting from the back cover:

"It all began when someone tried to push Creed into the flesh pool to be ingested. The assassination failed, but Creed was never the same again. Because it launched the cliffdwellers of Creed's colony onto a new course of life---which could lead to humanity's re-emergence as Earth's masters. In those far future days, Earth's masters were two trees. Not trees as we know them, but two Everest-high growths, who sentient roots and fast-growing branches dominated every living thing on the world. Men lived between their arboreal combat.

Earth in Twilight. 156 pages

enter image description here

Quoting from an Amazon review:

The mise-en-scene for this novel is somewhat reminiscent of Brian Aldiss's Hothouse: the world is choked by plant life and humans have devolved into small green tree dwellers. Also living among the vines and branches, and up in the tops of geosynchronous steeples (space elevators) that tower over the forest, are hideous monsters like Whing, an enormous blue mite, and the Ornad, with whom Whing's wife cohabitates after a bad domestic argument. Far worse is the plague organism in human form named Peru (after "P.U.," the last utterance of a victim who succumbed to his charms), who wanders around the forest causing deaths too loathsome to describe here. Enter a spaceship piloted by humans, who have returned after many millennia to defoliate the planet in a Vietnam-style ecocide called Project Deep Green, and the stage is set for one of Doris Piserchia's funniest and most entertaining books.

3

It could be Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven

It's a collection of short stories which includes growing a tree that acts as a space elevator that they found on mars. Living in the tree are various martian lifeforms.

The stories involve time travel to see the impacts of the tree over time including sucking up all the moisture from the earth leaving it dry like Mars

0

This might be "Son of the Tree" a novella by Jack Vance. The ISFDB lists it as a Novella, first published in 1950 or 51.

It appeared in an Ace Double with "The Houses of Iszm".

Early Ace cover for SotT/THoI Later Ace cover for SotT/THoI
enter image description here enter image description here

The Tree in "Son of the Tree is a miles-high treee that is worshiped as a divinity by an entire world. Its priests rule that world. They later attempt to introduce an offshoot, the titular "Son onto a different world in a nearby solor system.

Late in the story we learn that the "pilgrims" who come to the tree daily are eaten by the Tree.

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I'm going to mention "Midworld", by Alan Dean Foster. It wasn't quite a single organism, but the world had a three-dimensional forest that was inhabited by a range of organisms, that never set foot on the ground. For instance, the equivalent of army-ants, kept marching around in one direction. Not all the details match, I don't remember how they communicated long-distance (so hey, it could have been drums. :) I've seen it described as "Dune as a Jungle" - everything on the planet, is hostile to the intelligent humanoid tribes there.

In a second book, "Mid-Flinx", the main character of the series as a whole was Flinx, who had a flying-snake called Pip (empathic, venomous-spitter). He landed accidently on the planet, then had to survive to get to somewhere (not sure, been a long time) that a ship could land and rescue him.

Additionally, at the end of one of the books, it's revealed:

One of the crew (someone hostile, I think, not sure) who died - in the end, he was absorbed into the forest's "essence", and retained his awareness.

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    This answer conflates Midworld in which Flinx does not appear, and its sequel Mid-Flinx in which he does. The latter is set several generations later. Jul 12, 2022 at 2:16
  • @DavidSiegel wups. :) Hey, it's been 40 years...
    – John C
    Jul 12, 2022 at 12:30

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