The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
This book was sent to me by the publisher, at no cost.
A middle aged woman goes on an epic quest. You’ll want to be reading this in August when it’s released by Tor.com.
…no seriously, what more do you need to know?
Vellitt is a mathematics professor at the only women’s college in her city. Although it’s not really “her” city – it’s just where her youthful ramblings ended up taking her. Anyway one night she discovers that one of the students has left – run away with a boy – and not just any boy, but one from the waking world. Because Vellitt’s world is a dreaming world, and things are not the same there as they in the waking world of Earth. Thus begins Vellitt’s quest.
I was fascinated by the world building here. It’s not entirely original – there are other stories where people know that they live in a secondary world or an imagined world or a story – but this dreaming world with its heavy sky and ninety seven stars and changeable distances and multitude of cranky, vicious gods is beautifully realised. I could imagine many stories set here but actually, I rather hope that Johnson just leaves this as a stand-alone jewel.
Johnson says that this was an attempt to re-imagine a Lovecraft story she loved as a child but whose racism and lack of women was clearly problematic. The story is completely and thoroughly Vellitt’s. She reminisces about her experiences travelling the wide world as a young woman, about the people she met and skills she learned; but she’s not pining for her youth. She’s entirely comfortable with her black and silver hair and with the experience age has brought. Vellitt deals with all the problems cast her way – sometimes well, sometimes with help, and sometimes she’s left shaking with fear and revulsion. She’s determined and pragmatic and I really like her.