Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hugo Reviews: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

This story is a Lovecraftian travelogue, as a mature female math professor treks through gloomy Lovecraftian woods and swamps and cities.  On the trail of another woman, the descendant of a god. We get glimpses of Sarnath (before the doom came) and the plains of Leng and the creepy creatures and people who live there.

I was asking myself if we were there yet around 65%, and when we finally get to the end, we find a little twist but not a whole lot of there. Plus there’s a Chekov’s cat which is never fired.  

This story is not scary at all, which is a plus in most books but a deficit in a Lovecraftian tale. I’ll allow that it’s atmospheric, a bittersweet meditation on aging as Velitt undergoes one last quest, one that may very well kill her. It’s headed in the same direction as Lovecraft Country, the book that should’ve won Best Novel, but it lands with a flutter rather than a thunderclap. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Black Tom, another Lovecraftian pastiche on this year’s ballot.

As old Nyarlathotep once taught me, when choosing between two shoggoth, try to pick the one that seems like it’ll linger in your nightmares the longest. If this book wasn’t up against Black Tom it would be easier to like it more.  I’m voting it above No Award but below the other two selections. 

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