Length: 166 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: August 16th 2016
“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.
But the journey sends her on a quest across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface.”
This novella follow Vellit Boe, a middle-aged professor teaching at a women’s college, who also happens to be an inhabitant of the dream world. When her most talented student elopes with someone from the walking world, she has to drop everything to find her. Indeed, this student is the daughter of a really influencial member of the Academy and the disappereance of his little girl could have harsh consequences on the future of the only place where women can be instructed.
This story is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story called The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I have not read it and you don’t have to read it either if you don’t want to since the story stands well on its own. I just know that this novella is inspired by Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle without all the sexism and racism that we can find in his stories.
The writing of this little story was really good. While reading, I had the feeling that I could picture everything and that was probably my favorite thing about this novella. The story was interesting but what made the story was for me the character of Vellit Boe and how she changed during her journey. Indeed, before becoming a professor she used to be an adventurer and it was great to see her reconnect with the person she was in her youth.
So I really enjoyed Johnson’s use of setting and her main character’s perspective on the dream world. I also liked the discussions on feminism, race and the fear of the unknown raised in this work. However, I expected to like it more than I did, it sure was an interesting piece and I read it fast but the plot in itself wasn’t that original to me. I don’t know if I should have read the Lovecraft story beforehand, it might have helped to keep me invested in the story a bit more.
I found the ending to be really strong though, I read a few reviews where the ending was a bit criticized but I thought that it really suited the tone of the story.
If you’re intrigued about this title, give it a try, especially if you have strong feelings about Lovecraft (conflicted or not, this novella seems to be enjoyed by both his admirers and detractors).