The Dream Quest of Vellit Boe
The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson had me curious from the start, yet it took an age to get around to reading it. As a fan of H.P Lovecraft, this novella had that something extra to drag me in. And glad I am that it did.
Professor Vellit Boe is the protagonist who normally works at the Women's College in Ulthar (famed for all those cats). It is also a society in which women have only been grudgingly given certain rights, and that makes Ulthar a fairly progressive society in the Dreamlands. When a student apparently runs of with a man from the Waking World, the College goes into over-drive in its attempt to deal with the fallout and get the girl back. Vellit Boe gets the job of retrieving the love-crazed youth and it seems her past uniquely qualifies her for the task.
For fans of Lovecraft and the Dream Cycle stories, Vellit Boe's visits to some familiar places make some very endearing connections. Yet, Johnson repeatedly delights the reader with the new and unique wonders of her own imagination. Being a novella, Vellit Boe crams a whole lot of wonderful and spectacular places into an extremely short span with the result of the pace being incredibly quick. In psychedelic contrast, as a reader, you are not left with the hurried feeling that was a real danger. The pace feels right. Unlike Vellit Boe's lack of breath in some situations, I was not fatigued by trying to keep pace.
I confess: I had to use the dictionary in my ereader to check up some words. I could have left it to a guess, but that was not an option with the style and selection of phrases with which Johnson so imaginatively colours the story. It is simple a gorgeous and beautiful read that caresses your mind with velvety massages and vaporous wafts of aromatic scents. The prose is the fine wine of the written word. I loved and hung off every word.
While it is a very short book, coming in at under 120 pages on the Kobo edition, it is a delight in every sense and keeps you swiping until the very end with some delicious and surprising twists along the way. At times, Johnson follows Lovecraft's admonition of not explaining anything. There are some things that I am still wondering about.
The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is not a horror, but is more seated in the fantasy realm of literature. However, it is firmly rooted and centred at its very core in the Lovecraftian universe. Bearing that in mind, people new to H.P. Lovecraft will find a lot people and places in Vellit Boe to give them a neat starting point in the original corpus that inspired Johnson's novella.
And I loved the cat.
This is a very solid 4 Mandalas.
Get it at Amazon!