Hothouse (Chapters 10-15)

In chapter 10, Gren is tossed out of the group by Toy, because he refuses to recognize her authority. Shortly after he leaves, a large fungus drops down onto his head. This fungus, which calls itself “morel”, can communicate with Gren psychically. (At first, I wasn’t quite sure whether the fungus was actually intelligent or just really hallucinogenic, but as I went on, I think it’s obvious that it’s the former, and not the latter.) In fact, the fungus not only communicates with Gren, but controls him as well.

At the end of chapter 10, Gren is joined by Poyly (who apparently has a thing for Gren), and the fungus divides and possesses her as well. This marks the end of Part 1.

So far in part 2, we are following the adventures of Gren and Poyly, as directed by the morel. The morel turns out to be quite an asshole. It has never possessed a creature as intelligent as a human before, and it likes the new experience. It basically wants to spread itself all over the planet, via humans. (Humans, incidentally, are only about a foot and a half tall, and green. Have I mentioned that?)

Anyway, our party encounters another human, and basically beats her up and threatens to kill her unless she takes them to her tribe. (See what I mean by “asshole”?) This is after another adventure, during which I was rooting for our characters to die. It’s not very often that I find myself rooting for the protagonist in a book to die. (Not even in Stephen R. Donaldson books!) But the morel’s plan is genuinely frightening, and I don’t really care who has to die in order to thwart it.

After more adventures with Yattmur’s tribe and with a siren-like volcano creature, Gren, Poyly, and Yattmur seek out the Fishers.

The Fishers are human or human-like creatures with long tails which connect them to large pineapple-looking plants. In the morel’s next dick move, Gren, Poyly and Yattmur jump onto a barge on which the Fishers are about to fish, and Gren (at the morel’s direction) cuts off their tails, cutting them off from the plants which basically direct them. (Think Borg creatures, cut off from the collective.) The morel claims this is justified because the large pineapple things have “enslaved” the Fishers. When Poyly asks what the difference is between this and what the morel does to them, the morel points out that it is doing this for Gren and Poyly’s own good.

Um, yeah.

Between adventures, we learn more about the morel and about humans. The morel has access to “racial memories” of the humans that the humans themselves are not conscious of, and so it can learn about our entire history, even into prehistory. According to Aldiss, it learns that in fact some distant ancestor of it possessed some distant ancestors of us, and that this is the source of human intelligence. That is, our great leap of intelligence is due to some sort of fungal brain parasite.

I can’t help but feel that this is the author’s comment on human behavior. That is, in the author’s dim view of humanity, we behave as if the source of our intelligence is possession by a creature with the type of morality exhibited so far by the morel: conquer, dominate first; ask questions later. I don’t know enough about Aldiss to say whether her really is this misanthropic or not.

Anyway, on this happy note, I’ll sign off now. Oh, and Poyly died.

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