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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij…
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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

by Kij Johnson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Like The Ballad of Black Tom, this novella is a response to H.P. Lovecraft, his genius and his deficiencies--in this case, his erasure of women from his work. I have not read the Lovecraft novella that inspired this work, but I didn't feel it was necessary. Johnson tells a wonderful quest story about an independent, older woman who must travel through the Dreamlands in pursuit her student, the granddaughter of one of the Old Ones, who has absconded to the Waking World. The writing is really fantastic (much less muddy and confounding than Lovecraft himself), and the female characters are inspiring. A good read. ( )
  sturlington | Nov 1, 2018 |
I loved this and I want more of it which I guess is the best compliment I can construct right now. This book is everything I've been looking for and for once--FOR ONCE--centers women in their own stories! So many books with a woman as a main character, with a charming and dangerous assassin, with a princess or a commoner or a warrior and yet still they were never the center of the story, never the pivot. Instead they existed surrounded by men and love and what man they would choose and what man they should choose and the endless debates and for once, here, a woman and a story that dispelled immediately with love and the need for love--

I would read hundreds of books set in this place. I would read thousands. The writing itself--Lovecraftian but without the weak-chinned pretentiousness, Lovecraftian without the fastidious disgust of Lovecraft himself--a Lovecraft WITHOUT GODS. I would read thousands of books about brave women and foolish women and fierce women and older women and reluctant women who moved through worlds without the burden of love or men or anything but themselves. I'm so glad this was the first fiction I read in 2017 because even if everything else is awful I will at least know that books like this ARE POSSIBLE. And that will keep me moving. ( )
1 vote ElleGato | Sep 24, 2018 |
I was a little uncertain about this story going in. The title felt wrong, too amateur, to simplistic. And once I started reading, early echoes of Dorothy Sayer's "Gaudy Night" made me wonder whether I was going to enjoy it at all, particularly as it seemed darker, less optimistic. But as the story developed, as the titular protagonist traveled across the lands of her world, I was pulled further and further into the beauty of the writing, the rightness with which each component followed the other.

It took me a long time to work out which work this is riffing off; from whence the transformative work started. And I won't discuss it here, although I note that other reviews take it as assumed that the reader knows what it is based on. While familiar with the source material, I was probably 2/3rds of the way through when it clicked. The ending was bittersweet, but probably not surprising -- the point of a quest is to find a new you, a different place to be.

This story hits all of the targets I expect of good fiction - good world building (even if based on someone else's ideas, the world as presented is much more Johnson's than the previous author's), good/believable plot, strong characterisation, and strong writing that I don't notice while devouring the story. ( )
  fred_mouse | Jun 27, 2018 |
I haven't read a lot of Lovecraft, but I have basic familiarity; I've also read more recent works riffing on Lovecraft and the Elder Gods, etc. So I figured my lack of knowledge wouldn't hamper my reading of this novella. I was wrong.

While I certainly picked up on some of the names and the general atmosphere, and I certainly could see places where I thought Johnson was subverting a typical Lovecraftian trope, for me the story really fell flat.

While I appreciated Johnson's prose, and was intrigued by the main character and the world, the last third was a slog for me - much like Boe's journey turning more and more gruesome as she continues.

The ending, while at least partially anticipated (though I honestly thought it would work better as a tragedy where she fails her mission, or succeeds but dies), the complete ease with which she convinces her former student to return, while she gets to stay, was not believable to me. Neither was the extremely convenient friendly gug that transforms into a Buick, or the mysterious black box that ends up being a cell phone linked to Clarie's location.

That said, I do like the idea of a female/feminist Elder God who wants to fix her world, and I'm disappointed I don't get to read that story. ( )
  kbellwether | Apr 16, 2018 |
I adore this book about a woman who must undertake a perilous journey to save her beloved town - and the Lovecraftian worlds that lie beneath ours (or at least in some parallel state). I loved Vellitt Boe and the cat, and I loved the journey. I could have read a book five times as long about this character, but I know that this novella is meant to mirror, update, improve upon, speak to, etc., a Lovecraft story that is also not book-length. As in N.K. Jemisin's Fifth Season and Obelisk Gate, the protagonist is not a young woman, but someone who is important to the fate of the world. That's a fine new trend that I hope continues for a good long time. I did laugh about "Wisconsin." Wonderful. ( )
1 vote SuziSteffen | Feb 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Johnson, KijAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ngai, VictoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For everyone who had to find her own way in
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

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.… (more)

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