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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij…

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

by Kij Johnson

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"both a commentary on a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and a profound reflection on a woman's life."

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is Kij Johnson's response to H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Unfamiliar with the Lovecraft tale, I was drawn to Johnson's story because of its setting - the Dreamlands - and its protagonist - Vellitt Boe, a fifty-five year old professor in a women's college - who sets out on an adventure to recover a student who ran off with a dreamer to the waking world. She's joined on her quest by a black cat who often rides on her shoulder. Run-ins with men and creatures alike make this a dangerous journey, but Vellitt's fierce determination won't allow her to give up until she's reached her destination.

4.5 stars (loved it!) ( )
  flying_monkeys | Dec 27, 2016 |
I loved this: a quiet, fantastical travel-story, peppered with moments of revolutionary heroism. I would cheerfully read a 500-page epic just like this. ( )
1 vote jen.e.moore | Sep 30, 2016 |
In her youth, Vellitt Boe traveled the Six Kingdoms of the dream world before deciding to settle down as the mathematics professor of Ulthar Women’s College, a sanctuary of sorts for women who may not fit anywhere else. Now, she’s taking up her walking stick and pack to travel again, because one of her students has run away with a man from the waking world, and it could mean the end of the college.

Basically, this is a novella about a woman in her fifties going on a quest. And that’s entirely as wonderful as it sounds.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is apparently related to/inspired by the work of Lovecraft but with an attempt to create a story with a focus on women and without the racism. As I haven’t read any of Lovecraft’s work, I can’t really comment on the influence, although I have heard that the setting of the novella belongs to Lovecraft’s mythos. I can testify that even if you’ve never read anything by Lovecraft, you can still love The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

“To him, she had been a landscape, an articulate crag he could ascend, a face to put to this place. When were women ever anything but footnotes to men’s tales?”

The dream world Vellitt Boe travels across is a vividly lush, beautiful setting, with chaotic gods who habitually wreck destruction and ninety-seven stars in the deeply patterned sky. Those from the waking world occasionally travel through, such as the man Vellitt’s student Claire ran off with. Yet all the travelers from our world Vellitt has met have been male, leaving Vellitt to travel through a world shaped by the dreams of men. She knows that her dreams are vast and powerful, so perhaps there is another world out there shaped by the dreams of women.

Vellitt is older than most female protagonists in fantasy, and I think her confidence and experience are a real asset to the story. She’s sure of who she is and in her mission. She’s gained some wisdom and self-knowledge over the course of her life.

While part of me wishes I could stay with Vellitt and her travels longer, I do think that the length was entirely suited to the story. All in all, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a gorgeous, powerful novella that I heartily recommend.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received an ARC of The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
2 vote pwaites | Aug 23, 2016 |
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Vellitt Boe was dreaming of a highway and ten million birds in an empty sky of featureless blue.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765391414, Paperback)

Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her.

"Kij Johnson's haunting novella The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is both a commentary on a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and a profound reflection on a woman's life. Vellitt's quest to find a former student who may be the only person who can save her community takes her through a world governed by a seemingly arbitrary dream logic in which she occasionally glimpses an underlying but mysterious order, a world ruled by capricious gods and populated by the creatures of dreams and nightmares. Those familiar with Lovecraft's work will travel through a fantasy landscape infused with Lovecraftian images viewed from another perspective, but even readers unfamiliar with his work will be enthralled by Vellitt's quest. A remarkable accomplishment that repays rereading." ―Pamela Sargent, winner of the Nebula Award

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 02 Aug 2016 18:16:42 -0400)

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