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Worlds Without End Blog

GMRC Review: Hothouse by Brian Aldiss Posted at 12:14 PM by Fred Van Patten

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WWEnd Grand Master Reading ChallengeWWEnd member Fred Van Patten got his first GMRC review in just under the wire! Fred is not just a fan of SF/F/H. He’s one of those lucky few who are living the dream of running his own bookstore. If you get up Ohio way stop in and see him at Backlist Books. Tell him you found him on WWEnd.


HothouseHothouse was Brian Aldiss‘ fourth or fifth published novel, and originally appeared as a group of short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The short stories were collectively given the 1962 short fiction Hugo. The book was instrumental in the creation of the role playing game Gamma World, a post-apocalyptic version of Dungeons & Dragons.

The U.S. original version was an abridged version – I actually read the most recent printing by IDW press which I believe preserved the full text of the original U.K. hardcover, albeit with many of the typographical errors so common to modern reprints.

I don’t know what the changes in the U.S. version are, but for 1962, this story has a pretty high level of sexual frankness that was certainly unusual, and probably controversial at the time. The story is so strange, that it will make any plot summary seem ludicrous – but here goes, briefly.

In the far future the earth has stopped rotating, and the side facing the sun has mutated into an enormous jungle. Human beings have devolved into small monkey, or even smaller, sized creatures. Some of the humans ride a mile-long worm to the moon, grow wings, and hatch a plan to bring other humans to the moon. The main character escapes the worm trip, and instead has his brain invaded by a telepathic mushroom that commands him to roam the earth. Eventually they meet up with a talking dolphin that is taken over by the morel also. They hatch a plan to ride the worm to a new planet. The main character, Gren, decides to stay on earth, as the sun is not supposed to go supernova for several generations to come.

Grand Master Brian AldissThis work is highly comparable to J. G. Ballard‘s The Drowning World. Both involve a future heated world with runaway plant and animal growth, and human de-evolution under psychological stress. They differ in that Ballard’s work depicts as few science fiction elements as possible, whereas Aldiss throws in every hashish-laden LSD acid trip idea that ever wafted by. Somewhere out there an enterprising English major is going to use $150,000 of student loan money to write a masters’ thesis contrasting the two with our very own, very "warmed" current world.

Hopefully I can save the taxpayers some money, by merely stating "yes". An out of control climate will result in some major psychological changes—which are happening now. See Katrina for some rather Ballardian encounters, and see Detroit for some Aldiss-style plant revenge.

I can heartily recommend this book as a classic of the genre – it is a thematically complicated work I have just scratched the surface of here, and fully deserves its placement on Pringle’s top 100 list.

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2 Comments

Emil   |   01 Feb 2012 @ 04:09

Thanks for your notes. I’m undecided about which Aldiss I want to read. I looked at "Hothouse" and "Greybeard" after Rhonda’s review on "Helliconia Spring" convinced me not to read that one. I guess I’m now leaning towards "Hothouse."

Thomas Baughman   |   12 Feb 2012 @ 15:01

Emil, The Aldiss to read are Non-Stop, Hothouse, and Greybeard.

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