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Brian Aldiss

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi
Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 8th October 2014

Aldiss snares us in his trap; a future of our world overgrown with vegetation and swarming with life; both evolved in horrific ways like large insects and also devolved, like the pathetic animals. Perils lay hidden on every page as deadly wonders flow from Aldiss' imagination.

Our protagonists are regressed humans, travelling in small groups, protecting their male.

A Darwinian theme of survival is constant; life dies so that other life may live, their is no waste in the hothouse.

Our descendants are small with more instinct than intelligence and their skin is green (presumably to blend into the environment which they no longer control).

The characters are not easy to relate to nor do we sympathise much. Aldiss gives us little time to become accompanied with potential heroes before they are either killed or forgotten by the plot. It takes a while before we are certain that Gren is the character we will be following for more of the story and he is the most antagonistic of all.

Aldiss, however, is not interested in characters, they are just part of the cycle of life, and life is the important factor in this narrative and we are not short changed on lifeforms, we encounter many weird an wonderful creatures. The range of insect is massive, from the Traversers, who span the planets moving along their great webs, to the Termites, who are the closest thing Humans have to an ally.

Their is also great vegetation, the most interesting being the Morel, a type of 'snake from the garden of Eden' character who is a fungus who tempts Gren with knowledge.

Though the characters aren't necessarily likable, they do develop. It takes a while to connect with them any we see little of some of the characters who we may have had it easier to connect with, the story is still compelling and very active, bustling with life. 

The descriptive nature of Aldiss' writing has you literally palming leaves out of the way and the giant insects will make your skin crawl. Enjoyable, fast, punchy and in light of today's focus on global warming and the pending environmental crisis, Hothouse was perhaps ahead of it's time.