Her dreams were large, of trains a mile long and ships that climbed to the stars, of learning the languages of squids and slime-molds, of crossing a chessboard the size of a city. That night and for years afterward, she had envisioned another dream land, built from the imaginings of powerful women dreamers.
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe follows a middle-aged mathematics professor Vellitt Boe, who teaches at a Ulthar Women’s College in the dreamlands, on a quest to find and bring home one of her students, who fell in love with a man (a dreamer) from the waking world. She believes that the dreamer has managed to transport the girl from the dreamlands into the waking world, so Vellitt journeys across the dreamlands seeking a way to enter the waking world.
I didn’t know before starting this book that the story is a re-imagining of HP Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. I wish I had read the original story before reading this so that I could have appreciated more the author’s treatment of the original mythos. Nevertheless, it was interesting to go on this journey with Vellitt through the enchanting dreamlands, full of strange creatures and capricious gods, learning more about her past travels and struggles, before she settled down to teach at Ulthar College. It’s an imaginative and beautifully realised world, and Vellitt is an intelligent and experienced woman, who is comfortable with her age and learns from her past experiences, that was very refreshing to read about.
Johnson knows how to immerse the reader into a story so that the reader feels that he’s actually going along with Vellitt on this journey. It’s a brief yet compelling story, exploring feminist themes in a fantastical world and Vellitt is a strong, well-developed character that you want to follow on this journey.
Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book via NetGalley.