(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Hothouse, Brian Aldiss second science-fiction novel, harks back to classic British chronicles of afar distant future such as Olaf Stapledons Last and First Men (1930) and especially H. G. Wellss The Time Machine (1895). In Wells’s story, the devolved humans have nothing to fear but the Morlocks, while in Hothouse Nature has taken much more violent evolutionary turns. At the same time, in its gleefully bizarre inventiveness and mixture of mythic elements and scientific extrapolation, Hothouse foreshadows the 1960’s New Wave, when Aldiss and others would conduct more radical experiments in applying techniques of modernist literature to science-fiction writing. The novel anticipates Aldiss’ later work, such as the Helliconia series (1982-1985), in its epic sweep and its mix of science fiction and fantasy. The first American edition of the novel, retitled The Long Afternoon of Earth, cut more than ten thousand words, including episodes of the morel probing Grens racial memories and the discovery of an ancient human dwelling and a propaganda machine.

Hothouse can be read as a gruesome comedy of puny humanitys helplessness in the face of a Nature “green in tooth and claw” or as a visionary work, awed by the universes mysteries and the role of humanity in the scheme of things. Freudian, Jungian, and feminist readers could all make much of Grens adventures: his breaking away from a...

(The entire section is 500 words.)