Hothouse (Chapters 20-26; End)

Finished it.

Our small band is still living in caves on the side of a mountain that is tall enough to catch sunlight even though it’s slightly on the dark side of the terminator. Yattmur has had a child (by Gren, of course) who is called Laren. The morel has taken complete control of Gren now, has grown, and wants to leave Gren and take over the baby. Yattmur, of course, is opposed to this. Gren is looking pretty unwell at this point, as well, and spends most of his time just lying in the cave doing nothing.

It’s at this point that we meet our last major character: Sodal Ye. (Sodal is a title, Ye is its name.) This is probably the strangest character we’ve encountered, as Sodal Ye is basically a dolphin who travels the land by being carried around on the back of a male human. It  has two additional human female companions. Sodal Ye is highly intelligent; more intelligent than any of the humans. (Douglas Adams was right!) It’s also very arrogant. (In this book arrogance seems to scale very precisely with intelligence.)

Unfortunately, this creature reminds me of a couple of different characters from the cartoon The Tick. It’s probably a bad thing if you’re writing a serious book when one of your characters reminds the reader of characters from an absurd (and extremely funny) cartoon, but since the book predates the cartoon, Aldiss can hardly be held responsible. The two characters I’m thinking of, incidentally, are Mr. Smarty-Pants, the hyper-intelligent dolphin who develops the fish magnet, and the large whale (named “Leviathan”?) who emerges from the sea and proceeds to run across America for no apparent reason.)

Anyway, Mr. Smarty-Pants Sodal Ye has a solution to Yattmur’s problem. They pretend to allow the morel to take over Laren, but as the morel is sliding off of Gren onto Laren, they snatch Laren away and catch the morel in a bucket (made from a large gourd) instead. Laren and Gren are both free and the morel is without a host. Yay! Gren, after a good long sleep, is back to his old self, and it’s not long before we’re reminded that Gren’s old self was actually a bit of a jerk, also. (He’s always been smarter than most humans, and there’s the whole intelligence/arrogance connection, remember.)

Soon Gren, Yattmur, Laren, and Sodal Ye and his companions set off towards the light, with the morel in the bucket. We learn more about life along the way from Ye. It turns out that evolution is sort of an oscillatory thing, as life on the upswing diversifies, while life on the downswing (as it is on earth at this point) undiversifies. (Hmmph. Spell-check says that’s not a word!) Hence the distinction between plant and animal is becoming blurred, and this blurring will continue as life on earth winds down.

At about this time, they find the a dying traverser blocking their path, and (coincidence of coincidences) who should climb off of it, but Lily-yo and company. Remember Lily-yo? Anyway, when they find out that life on earth is winding down they decide they’re going to hitch back to the moon on another traverser. Sodal Ye and his companions are going to go with them. Somewhere during this, the morel gets dumped onto Sodal Ye. There are two creatures that deserve each other!

Also, the morel splits, and they use the other half to take control of their new traverser. Now they’re driving and not just riding! They drop Gren, Yattmur, and Laren off back in the forest, somewhere in more or less the same environment they grew up in. Lily-yo tries to convince them to come to the moon with them, but Gren basically tells them good riddance. The traverser takes off, Gren, Yattmur, and Laren start to climb down into the trees, and the book ends.

The book ends. So was it any good? On the whole, I’d say it was alright, but it’s not one I’m going to be doing a lot of recommending of. It bears a lot in common with Aldiss’s Helliconia trilogy. Mainly in that he is largely concerned with nature, the environment, and its effect on how people live. I like that facet of Hothouse. I like the various odd creatures that populate Aldiss’s world, and the rationales behind them. Aldiss is definitely a biology and evolution fanboy. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that makes sense scientifically, this isn’t always it. I probably won’t be using this in my Science of Science Fiction course this May.


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