fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsHothouse by Brian W. Aldiss science fiction book reviewsHothouse by Brian W. Aldiss

Yeah, Brian W. AldissHothouse (1962) was definitely written with some chemical assistance. Maybe some LSD-spiked vegetable juice? It may have been written as a set of five short stories in 1961, but it’s a timeless and bizarre story of a million years in the future when the plants have completely taken over the planet, which has stopped rotating, and humans are little green creatures hustling to avoid becoming plant food.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThere are hundreds of fearsome carnivorous plants that would love to eat human morsels, but will gladly settle for eating each other instead. As the planet has come to a stop, a massive banyan tree now covers the sunny-side of the planet, with all other plants surviving in its shade. But there are gargantuan plant-based spiders called traversers who dwell above the plant layer and actually spin webs across space to the moon and other planets. Yeah, the science here is, well, complete and utter bollocks! But who cares when you can come up with the most bizarre plant species ever conceived in an amazing dying-earth setting?

And this book never lets up on the crazy vegetable creatures and pitiful rat-like humans. The main characters are continuously fleeing from one crisis to the next, and never have the upper hand. They encounter the most annoying creatures ever created, including the tummy-belly men, whose speech mannerisms make Jar-Jar Binks sound like Shakespeare. Then there is the fish creature carried by a crippled human called the Catch-Carry-Kind, a prophet who knows the sun is dying and Earth is doomed. He has great wisdom but meets his match with an intelligent, parasitic fungus called a Morel. In fact, the fungi is really a pretty fun-… no, I won’t go there. But Aldiss was definitely tripping on some fecund and fertile thoughts.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews


However, his human characters and dialogue are dreadful! This is the most amazing world-building but the most god-awful characters ever created. The storyline is so episodic it drove me crazy, but the malevolent Black Mouth with its irresistible siren cry and a brooding cliff with a 1,000 staring eyes were so cool that I was rooting against the puny humans. If only some other author like Jack Vance were allowed to use this world (like the Dying Earth), this could have been a contender. Oh, the humanity… or is it vegetality?

Aldiss’ Non-Stop (1958), Hothouse (1962), and Greybeard (1964) were chosen by David Pringle for his Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, and they’ve been on my TBR list for years. In fact, the five short stories that make up Hothouse collectively were awarded the 1962 Hugo for Best Short Fiction. Last year I tried to read Non-Stop, one of the original generational starship stories, but I found the characters so clumsily-drawn that I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. I don’t want to make an unfair assessment, but I feel that Aldiss, who has some great ideas, really isn’t very gifted in the characterization department. He’s been a major figure in British SF, and wrote a well-regarded history of the SF genre called Trillion Year Spree (2001), but I feel like he’s not one of the top authors from the 1960s. Incidentally, has anyone read his Helliconia Trilogy? Was it any better?

Publisher: A Hugo Award–winning classic about a far-future Earth dominated by gargantuan plants and the few humans who remain. Millions of years beyond our time, our Earth has long since stopped spinning—and giant flora have taken over the sunlit half of the motionless world. Here humans are among the very few animal species that still exist, struggling to survive against enormous odds, but they have become small and weak, and their numbers have dwindled to almost nothing. When the aging leader of Gren’s tribe decrees it is time for the old ones to go “Up,” the younger are left to make their own way below. Although the journey will not be an easy one for young Gren, he sets off on an odyssey across a perilous world populated by carnivorous plants and other evolved vegetation. But any knowledge to be gained at the terminator—the forbidding boundary between the day world and the night—might well prove worthless for the boy and the companions he amasses along the way when the expanding sun goes nova and their Earth is no more. A thrilling parable of courage, discovery, and survival, Hothouse is among Grand Master Brian W. Aldiss’s most beloved and enduring works. Ingeniously inventive, richly detailed, and breathtakingly lush and vibrant, the doomed world and people that Aldiss creates will live forever in the minds of all those who enter this remarkable realm.