I recently read Non-stop by Aldiss and having thoroughly enjoyed it I thought I’d give Hothouse a go. Happily I loved this too.
Hothouse is set in the future. The far, far future future. As in a few billion years from now. The sun is expanding and will soon go nova. The Earth and Moon have stopped rotating with the result that half the planet is permanently facing the sun. On this half the plants rule and the land is dominated by one huge, continent spanning banyan tree.
Plants have evolved and even mimic extinct mammals like birds or rabbits. Some plants are even more mental. One, for example has evolved into a mile long spider that has spun webs from the Earth to the Moon.
Most of the plants seem to be predatory, which makes survival a real bitch. The story starts with a small group of humans who live in the middle branches of the tree. I say small as there are only about 10 of them and also because they are about one foot tall. And green. Various things happen but essentially one of them goes on an epic adventure all over the globe.
I loved Hothouse because of the sheer imagination and wonder that went into it. As it is so far in the future it might as well be a fantasy. There are some mad as fuck creatures living on the planet. Some of the larger predators are the size of volcanoes and emit a hypnotic noise. Others are island sized or intelligent parasites and so on. After the initial set up, the book moves at an awesome pace with one adventure after another.
There are a few negatives though. The characterization isn’t all that strong. You don’t really care about the characters all that much. They feel like they are just there to witness the world as they travel. As that world is fascinating this doesn’t really matter. Also, the book feels a bit disjointed. The reason for that is because it was originally five short stories that have been pasted together and this results in a slightly disjointed narrative. There are also some minor contradictions that a good editor should have spotted.
One of the main criticisms is that the science doesn’t work. To that I say bollocks – it really doesn’t matter. As I said earlier, the book is practically a fantasy.
This is a great book with a lot more depth to it than I have credited here. It questions intelligence and the ‘live in the now’ mentality that is detrimental to progress. It questions other things too but I have gone on enough.
After a slightly slow start, Hothouse just goes from great to awesome. Highly recommended.