Hothouse (novel): Wikis


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Author Brian Aldiss
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) science fiction novel
Publisher Faber and Faber
Publication date 1962
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 206 pp
ISBN 0-451-08575-2

Hothouse is a 1962 award-winning fantasy/science fiction novel by British author Brian Aldiss, composed of 5 novelettes that were originally serialized in a magazine. In the US, an abridged version was published as The Long Afternoon of Earth; the full version was not published there until 1976 (US paperback title The Sun is Dying). Five of the stories which make up the novel, which were published separately in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1961, were collectively awarded the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Short Fiction.


Explanation of the novel's title

Earth, with one side constantly facing the sun (larger and hotter than now), is a veritable hothouse, where plants have filled almost all ecological niches. According to Aldiss's account, the US publisher insisted on the name-change so the book wouldn't be put amongst the horticulture books in bookshops.

Plot introduction

Set in a far future, the earth has locked rotation with the Sun, and is attached to the now-more-distant Moon with cobweb spun by enormous spider-like plants. The Sun has increased output and plants are engaged in a constant frenzy of growth and decay like a tropical forest enhanced a thousandfold. The plants have filled all the ecological niches on the land and in the air; of the animals only the descendants of four species of social insects remain (tigerflies (evolved from wasps), tree-bees, plant-ants and termights (from termites)), along with small groups of humans (a fifth of the size they are now); all other land and air animals have been driven to extinction by the vegetable kingdom. The humans live on the edge of extinction, within the canopy layer of a giant banyan tree that covers the day side of the earth.

Plot summary

Lily-yo, leader of a small, matriarchal human tribe, decides that the group should break up, as the adults are too old, and should go to the Tips, the dangerous top levels of the forest in order to go "Up". Burnurns - transparent seed-casings - are collected, and the adults seal themselves inside after which the young attach them to the webs of the giant spider-like plants Traversers, which travel into space to receive more intense sunlight, who will hopefully brush against them and thus carry them to the moon (which now has a breatheable atmosphere).

The unconscious adults reach their destination, where they discover they have transformed into Flymen, mutated by space radiation into flight-capable forms. They meet others and a plot is hatched for an expedition back to Earth to kidnap human children to increase the Flymen's population.

Back in the jungle, Toy is the new leader. While attempting to kill a large, seed-shaped suckerbird, the tribe accidentally become passengers on the suckerbird. After a long flight, they crash on the coast at the base of a 'termight' castle on a peninsula.

Walking back to the forest through "Nomansland" - the lethal interface-area between land and sea, Gren is waylaid by a "morel", a sentient fungus which attaches itself to his head and talks to, and controls him. After a power-struggle, Gren leaves the tribe with his girlfriend Poyly, also taken-over by the morel.

On their travels, they meet Yattmur of the "Herder" tribe, who live in caves in a congealed lava bed. At the "Skirt of the black mouth", an unknown creature with Siren-like capabilities almost leads them to their deaths. Escaping, they meet the Tummy-belly men, some of whom they free by cutting the umbilical cords with which they are attached to a parasitic tree. All board a boat belonging to the tummy-bellies, but during the escape Poyly is killed.

The boat, uncontrolled, floats downriver into the sea. After several adventures, the crew find themselves on an iceberg, the boat destroyed, after which the berg abuts a small islet. They leave by hitching a ride on a plant which propagates by using self-propelled, stilt-walking seeds, which instinctively walk to the mainland.

They find themselves at the terminator, the boundary between the day and night sides. To their horror, they realize they are being carried over it. After a long journey, the seed stops near the top of a mountain, which is tall enough to still be lit by the low sun. There, Yattmur gives birth to Gren's child and they meet the Sharp-furs.

They meet the Sodal Ye and his three helpers. Gren, increasingly taken over by the morel, wants the baby to host it as well. In return for food, the Sodal Ye thinks of a way to remove the morel from Gren's head by coaxing it into a bowl.

They decide to accompany the Sodal Ye back to Bountiful Basin, an arm of the sea close to the terminator. On the way, the creature explains to them that the world is about to end, and the strange, green columns they begin to see beaming into space is life itself, transferring to a new star.

Followed by Sharp-furs and others, they notice a traverser has landed and blocked the passage to their destination. The morel manages to take over the Sodal Ye and when they reach the giant spider, Gren meets Lily-yo again. They board the traverser, which is going to lift off to the stars (after being taken over by the morel) - all except Gren, Yattmur, and the baby, who decide to return to the familiar forest.


  • Gren : Young male tribesman. Later, hosts a morel.
  • Lily-yo : Leader of Gren's tribe.
  • Band Appa Bondi : Flyman; stolen from Earth as a child.
  • Poyly : Gren's tribal girlfriend.
  • The morel : Sentient fungus; forms symbiotic relationships with other lifeforms.
  • Yattmur : Gren's girlfriend from the Herder tribe.
  • Laren : Gren and Yattmur's son.
  • Flymen : Human sub-species; able to glide and fly.
  • The Tummy-belly men (fishers) : Humans who have become symbionts with the Tummy Trees.
  • Sharp-furs : Denizens of the Nightside, descended from baboons.
  • Sodal Ye : Prophet of the Nightside mountains; of the catch-carry-kind, descended from dolphins.

Literary significance & criticism

The novel appears on the Top 100 list of the greatest science fiction novels post 1945.[citation needed]

Author and critic James Blish called the stories "utter nonsense" and took Aldiss to task for ignoring basic rules of physics 1. The magazine editor actually sought scientific advice about one aspect of the book. He was told that the orbital dynamics involved meant that it was nonsense, but the image of the earth and moon side by side in orbit, shrouded with cobwebs woven by giant vegetable spiders, was so outrageous and appealing that he published it anyway.

In 2009, IDW Publishing repackaged the novel with a new introduction by author Clifford Meth.

The magazine stories

  • There were originally 5 short stories, which appeared in 5 1961 issues of the magazine ... 1 ... 2
Story Issue Date Issue #
Hothouse February 1961 117
Nomansland April 1961 119
Undergrowth July 1961 122
Timberline September 1961 124
Evergreen December 1961 127


Release details

  • FIRST EDITION: 1962 (PB) Signet Books, ISBN 0-451-08575-2, (HB) Faber and Faber
  • November 1967 : HB, ISBN 0-571-08664-0 (UK edition), Faber and Faber
  • June 1976 : HB, ISBN 0-8398-2325-8 (USA edition), Gregg P, US
  • April 1984 : HB, ISBN 0-86391-023-8 (UK edition), John Goodchild
  • December 1969 : PB, ISBN 0-7221-1090-1 (UK edition), Sphere
  • ? 1977 : PB, ISBN 0-7221-1103-7 (UK edition), Sphere
  • June 1980 : PB, ISBN 0-586-04990-8 (UK edition), Panther
  • December 1984 : PB, ISBN 0-671-55930-3 (USA edition), Baen
  • February 1990 : PB, ISBN 0-575-04735-6 (UK edition), Gollancz
  • October 2000 : PB, ISBN 0-7551-0060-3 (UK edition), House of Stratus
  • 7 August 2008 : PB, ISBN 9780141189550 (UK edition), Penguin Classic

Sources, references, external links, quotations



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