This book is similar in some ways to J G Ballard`s book `The Drowned World` which was published the same year (1963). Both novels are set in a future in which life on our earth is returning to a Triassic past, where plantlife and vegetation has taken over as the dominant form of life. Both novels also clearly show an interest in the ideas of the psychologist Carl Jung, and in particular his belief that within the unconcious mind of every human being there lies a collective subconcious memory which stretches way back through our entire human history.
But whereas Ballard`s novel is set in the very near future, Hothouse is set millions of years in the future, and the ecological change and increased climate is a natural process caused by the inevitable expansion of our sun as it reaches its final stages before extinction. Also, Aldiss`s world is a far more more threatening place than Ballard`s. It`s a hostile and impossibly crowded world where lifeforms are in brutal competition for survival and most animals and humans are virtualy extinct. The increased heat and radiation from the sun has resulted in the domination of plant and vegetable life over all other forms of life. The few remaining humans live mainly in the middle branches of the great Banyan tree which thickly covers the entire contenent, because to set foot on the decaying forest floor would usually entail being digested by some predatory and carnivoures plantlife. And in fact the term `falling to the green` has become a common term for death.
Aldiss has filled this terrifying but fascinating world with many strange and fantastic creatures, such as mutated plants and trees which have mimetisised into the forms of annimals which have become extinct such as birds and the octopuss. The main bulk of the story follows the adventures of young Greg - a curiously minded individual, who has been outcast from his tribe, and who sets out with the aid of an intelligent fungus to explore and understand his world.
Some people have critisised this book for its scientific unfeasibility, and some have called it `fantasy desguised as sci-fi`. Personally I regard these as pointless observations, as much of the story is symbolic. In short - this is an excellent read, brilliantly realised and beautifully told.