Hothouse (Chapters 2-4)

So, after the death of the child in Chapter 1, Lily-yo and a companion climb to the top of the tree (the “tips”) to take the “soul” of the child (a small carved wooden figure) so that it might “go up.” We learn some more about the world.

In this distant future, the earth’s orbit has slowed and become synchronized with it revolutions about the sun, so that the one side of the earth always faces the sun. Hence the title for the novel. Furthermore, the moon has spiraled away from the earth and is now at one of the stable Lagrange points of the Earth-Sun system. At the tips, we encounter the traversers, which are enormous spiderlike creatures that run along a web extending from the Earth to the Moon.

I read somewhere that Aldiss was informed while writing this that the astrophysics behind this was crap. Yes, the moon is very slowly getting farther away from the earth, and the earth is slowing down slightly (and these effects are related to each other). And yes, there are Lagrange points where an object could be placed and remain always in the same position with respect to the Earth and Sun. I’m guessing that the objections are mainly twofold: One is that the moon wouldn’t end up at rest at the Lagrange point, even if it got that far away, due to angular momentum conservation. (I haven’t done the calculation to see how far away the moon would be when the earth would stop rotating.) The other objection is that the moon, now 93 million miles away from the earth, is still identified as a half-disc. At that distance the moon would be a dot, and its phases would be even less identifiable without a telescope than the phases of Venus.

Aldiss left it in anyway, just because he loved the imagery of an ancient earth-moon system enshrouded in cobwebs. I’m no fanatic, so what the hell. ­čÖé

So, when Lily-yo returns to the others she has decided that it’s time for their band to break up. This means that they all go up to the tips, where the children will help the adults “go up”. This involves encasing the adults in some sort of pods, and attaching them to strands of the web, where they will become stuck to the leg of one of the giant versers, which will then take them up.

On the way back up to the tips, we encounter more dangers, one of the last of which are the “flymen” (one of the small number of significant non-plant creatures) which try to steal the children. Apparently when this is all over, the children will be fending for themselves. Why this is a good idea is never explained. The impression I get, though, is that what makes it favorable for survival is that it forces the older children to become responsible before they reach the age where they would otherwise become reckless.

So the adults are now hitching a ride on the enormous ┬áversers (Traversers) inside these airtight pods. When they get to the moon (93 million miles away!) they come out of their shells and find themselves transformed into…. FLYMEN!

A few words about Aldiss’s world that are kind of neat and may not have come through my description so far. First, while life on the planet is almost all plants (except for the continent-spanning banyan tree which hosts it all), it’s a very, um,┬áactive plant life.

No human cold ever kill a wiltmilt, for its vital parts were inaccessible. But already its struggles were attracting predators, the thinpins – those mindless sharks of the middle layers – rayplanes, trappersnappers, gargoyles, and smaller vegetable vermin. They would tear the wiltmilt to living pieces until nothing of it remained – and if they happened on a human at the same time… well, it was the way.

The other passage that caught my eye, that says a lot about the remnants of humanity that live in the distant future was this one:

“It is the way,” Flor answered, and Lily-yo knew she would get no deeper a word on the matter than that. Nor could she frame deeper words herself; human understandings trickled shallow these days. It was the way.

So, yeah, this is what humanity has been reduced to.

Anyway, I’m enjoying reading about this world so far, although there’s no real plot going on yet. (But, hey, I’m only on page 29.) More later.

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