Book Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

I have had this book for years, waiting to be read. The idea of a hiking journey through a Lovecraftian world accompanied by a cat sounds just lovely. To add on, the protagonist is middle-aged. Something more books should have, instead of teens running around and saving the world. Unfortunately, there ends my love for the work. The plot wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get invested in a lovesick runaway college student being chased after and brought back so that her father wouldn’t shut the college down.

Another thing that made it hard for me to get into the work was the prose. It was clumsy, removed, and too sweet at times. I found it hard to take the ghouls and threats seriously or get invested in what the protagonist saw and experienced because of it. Not a style that fits me. I’m sure it and the plot will draw someone else into the world and Vellitt Boe’s experience. There is this dream and child-like fairy tale quality to it in a semi-dark world where nothing bad really can happen while exploring the monsters, monstrous humans, and places Lovecraft created. The book is full of references and it cleverly reverses the usual premise of Lovecraft’s terror, making it the norm and our world weird and scary.

And about the ending. It annoyed me. It saved the initial anger towards the book’s premise, yet it felt forced with the runaway student. But, with the protagonist Professor Vellitt Boe, I think the ending was just what the story called for. So there is that. Now, as I look back at the experience, I should have let go of the expectation of a story and let Vellitt Boe’s witness-like quality take me on a journey. I enjoyed the sentences describing Vellitt Boe backing her things and stepping on the road, experiencing a sense of familiarity and belonging. Rare treats where my mindset and the book’s united.

Thank you for reading. Have an adventurous day! If you find any ghouls on your way, say hi.

2 comments on “Book Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

  1. That is a proper review. Pointing out what you did and did not enjoy, but clearly stating it can be a matter of taste.
    I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s ‘Kadath’, and have long waited to read this homage.
    I still will; but perhaps with less expectation.

    Liked by 1 person

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