Hothouse by Brian Aldiss

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Hothouse (1962) is a science fiction by a British author which is set in a future Earth that is overgrown with predatory vegetation. In terms of structure it is like a picaresque novel, but it can also be compared with Homer’s Odyssey, as the novel’s hero undertakes journey of discovery with a diverse collection of characters.

By this perilous and fateful journey, the author’s key concerns emerge. ‘Gren’ is a young man, outcast by matriarchal society, forced by circumstances to wander the world in search of a new home. Thereby we see what it means to come of age and be a male; Gren learns to lead others and fall in love.

We see also an examination of women. In Hothouse they are mothers, lovers, and social consciences. More intriguingly, Aldiss depicts the landscape in an explicitly female way, as womb-like volcanoes, mountain caverns, and tree-trunks appear. Alive, fecund and inviting, they allure Gren to destruction, or to a benign state of communal out-of-body pure consciousness. In this way, Hothouse is fable about negotiating the female influence.

Hothouse is also a look at knowledge and ignorance, embodied primarily by the mind-controlling and expansionist ‘morel’ fungus. These parts were, for me, the most compelling of the book. Aldiss shows the good and bad of being inquisitive and ambitious.

Overall it is an imaginative tale with a lot to say; funny in parts, sad in others, and profound occasionally. For science fiction readers, it is recommended. However, I did find his previous book, Non-Stop, more satisfying.

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