Chris Howard: “The Science of Rootless

Today, we’re thrilled to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Rootless by Chris Howard. We’ve also got a really cool giveaway, so keep reading to learn how to enter!

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The Science of ROOTLESS

First and foremost, ROOTLESS is a fantastical tale… it’s science fiction with the emphasis on fiction. There’s an element of “what if!?” to the story, but “what if?!” doesn’t mean “will be”. With that said, some of my inspiration sprang from real-world issues and concerns, and I have a background in environmental sciences, so today I’m going to talk about some of the more scientific concepts behind ROOTLESS… as a BOOK BLOG TOUR EXCLUSIVE! Some of the concepts in the book are actually not quite as far-out as you might think – whether it’s the omnivorous locusts, the artificial trees, or the engineered corn that grows thirty feet high…


Anyone who saw this stop on the Blog Tour knows that I was inspired to write ROOTLESS while hiking in the Colorado Rockies and finding myself surrounded by trees decimated by the Mountain Pine Beetle. These beetles have killed a lot of trees throughout my home state, wiping out whole sections of forest. And, of course, this sort of devastation isn’t a new thing… the American Chestnut was wiped out by disease in the early 1900s, for example. And right now, Britain’s predicting a THIRD of all its trees will likely be killed by a disease that’s already destroyed 90% of the ash trees in Denmark. I find it interesting, and disturbing, that a lot of these outbreaks occur as a result of our management (or mis-management) of the natural world:

• Successful fire suppression over the last century has resulted in an over-abundance of mature pine trees in Colorado, making the forests more susceptible to beetle attack.

• The chestnut blight was imported into the US, just as this new disease in Britain has been imported.

• In Lebanon right now, the cedar (their national tree) is a threatened species because global warming has led to shorter winters, which has led to larger outbreaks of damaging insects.


As soon as I imagined locusts consuming everything in their path, I pictured one thing surviving: genetically engineered corn. I imagined it becoming the only source of food and fuel (bio fuel), and even the last source of oxygen. I then imagined a single corporation controlling the corn they’d engineered into existence. As I mentioned, this is a fantastical story, but if ROOTLESS gets people talking and thinking about environmental issues, that’s great… I’d love for the book to raise questions, though was not intending to answer them. This is a complicated issue, and many people argue that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) offer a lot of positives. Others are concerned that we’re losing biodiversity as a result of corporations manipulating the natural world through their development of GMOs. There are concerns that corporations are controlling what grows and what doesn’t if they engineer crops to be resistant to disease, insects, and even pesticides. If patented GM seeds are released into the environment, they can outcompete and interbreed with non-GMOs, reducing biodiversity and increasing the patent-holders’ control over our food supply. And that’s not even getting into the potential hazards of GMOs to people’s health.

Corporations have been researching GMOs and applying for patents of these newly-created organisms since the 1980s, but in the US, the FDA still doesn’t require companies to label foods with warnings that the foods come from GMOs. This is despite the fact that many other countries have completely banned the use of GMOs, or have suspended GMO crops until the full environmental and health effects of these crops can be better researched. Do I think GMOs are the root of all evil? No. But I don’t believe big business necessarily prioritizes environment protection, and the world in ROOTLESS is the result of unchecked greed and corruption. Sometimes, the more we meddle with nature, the less control we seem to have over it. And I believe the less diverse a system, the more weak it becomes…

In ROOTLESS, it’s suggested that the all-consuming locusts evolved IN RESPONSE to GenTech’s ever-more-powerful engineered corn. The idea was inspired by occurrences such as this “super worm” that’s evolved to be able to resist pesticides. The GM corn in question, launched in 2003, is engineered to produce a protein that’s fatal to the rootworms that ingest it when munching on the corn roots. Yet pesticide-resistant rootworms are now showing up – outsmarting the genetic engineering that was supposed to keep them away. In a way, it’s similar to how bacteria evolves to become resistant to antibiotics.

And what if every kernel of corn had the name of a single corporation coded on it in tiny letters? That’s what happens in ROOTLESS, where no one can claim their corn isn’t the property of GenTech Corporation. This was inspired by the real-world issue of corporations patenting their GMO seeds and then suing farmers whose fields the seeds have blown into, even if the farmer in question considers their crops to have now been “contaminated” by the GMO.


In ROOTLESS, Banyan builds trees to “give people something to believe in”. Something beautiful that reminds them of the way the world once was. And, to end on a more positive note, I wanted to share with you some real-life tree building that’s already happening – with a scientific twist. These artificial trees in Singapore generate solar power, act as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collect rainwater. Banyan would be proud! Read more about these tree builders at this link.

Scientists are also working to build artificial trees that soak up carbon dioxide from the air using “leaves” that are 1,000 times more efficient than actual living leaves that use photosynthesis. Read more about this project here.




If you’d like, you can read more about different types of Tree Builders, by following my blog series “The Art of Tree Building”:

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17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using salvaged scrap metal, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree–they were destroyed more than a century ago–his missing father used to tell him stories about the Old World.

Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo, a map to the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can’t escape the locusts . . . the locusts that now feed on human flesh.

But Banyan isn’t the only one looking for the trees, and he’s running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he’s forced to make an alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

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Before he wrote stories, Chris Howard wrote songs, studied natural resources management, and led wilderness adventure trips for teenagers. He currently lives in Denver, CO, and ROOTLESS is his first novel. Join him at

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Enter to win a ROOTLESS Prize Pack

Contest is open INTERNATIONALLY!!

One winner will receive a t-shirt, a signed copy of ROOTLESS, and bookmarks!

To enter, just fill out the Novel Novice ROOTLESS Contest Entry Form for your chance to win. One entry per person, please.

Entries are due by midnight (PT) on Wednesday, November 28th.

Follow the rest of the tour and get more chances to win ROOTLESS swag here!


5 thoughts on “Chris Howard: “The Science of Rootless

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  1. Thanks Sara & Chris for this wonderful post!!! I love to read a little more about the inspiration and the science behind Rootless. It’s so cool to hear about “real” tree builders out there in the world, can’t help it! – maybe because I’m a little nerd lol & passionate about biodiversity conservation =)

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