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Written for:
Senior Literature
April 18, 1999


By: Kilgore Trout

The book Venus on the Half-Shell was written by Kilgore Trout. This is a science fiction novel that was written in 1974 and first published in 1975. The author was never well known but wrote over two hundred books. Few more than a dozen were ever printed.

The main character in this book is a space wanderer who goes by the name Simon Wagstaff. In the course of the book he is accompanied by a dog he names Anubis, an owl he names Athena, and a female robot who is named Chworktap. Simon thinks they are all very good company and finds, later in the story, that they were very helpful.

The first dramatic scene was when the book started. Simon was on earth with his fiancée. They were in Egypt enjoying a vacation when the planet earth was flooded. Aliens from a distant galaxy had decided earth was a bad place that was just destroying itself. As a result, they decided to flood the planet in an attempt to kill off all its inhabitants. After floating in a coffin for about a week, Simon finds a Chinese spaceship. Having floated around with a dog and finding an owl on the ship, Simon decided to leave earth as a “planet-less” man looking for answers. Basically, he wanted to know, “why are we created only to suffer and die (13)?” So, he sets off from planet to planet looking for philosophical beings, always looking for an answer.

Another notably dramatic scene was when Simon landed on one of the first inhabited planets he found. On this planet the dominant species evolved from cats. They are known as the Shaltoon. Their dominant features were claw like nails, slits for pupils, and an accented speech. Simon notes that, “Depending on their mood, they sound like they purr when they talk (51).” It appears the inhabitants of this planet were in their mating season and were all in heat. Aside from driving Anubis, Simon’s dog, wild, it made Simon uncomfortable. His escorts were constantly going off to mate. While he was on the planet, the queen was making a special appearance and Simon was invited to dinner. While at dinner, Simon asked the queen if she could answer his ultimate question. He then learned that the Shaltoon were not very philosophical. They were, however, very advanced in chemistry. They had developed an elixir that causes them to live for about ten thousand years. After the queen seduces Simon she offers him and his animal companions their chemical fountain of youth. He decides to take it and leave the planet in search of his answers.

Simon spends the rest of the story going to other planets looking for the wisest beings on each. In the end he found a planet that was sure to have his answers. After a long trip to what he believes is the center of the universe, he finds himself without Chworktap (she left him), missing part of his left buttock, and short one eye. He finally arrives at this planet and, after days of being pampered, he is allowed to meet the only man to ever know “The Creator”. Simon asks him, “Why are we created only to suffer and die?” To which the reply, straight from the top, is, “Why not?” That was the very last line in the book.

This book took place between the years 8,119,644 AC (in Earth years) and 8,120,006 AC. The setting started out on Earth and moved all over the universe. Due to the technological circumstances and the locations of the planets, this book could not have, realistically, taken place in another time or place.

“The reasons this book was written are vague. It was written some time ago. In fact, the author described a black hole. Here is a footnote telling the significance of this. The boojum of Trout has a remarkable resemblance to the “black hole” of space conjectured by contemporary astronomy. Trout intuitively anticipated this concept five years before it was proposed in scientific journals.
-Editor (34).”
Kilgore Trout never published any books himself. This story was found and purchased from his family.

Over all, this was a very well written science fiction novel. It has some very well thought out ideas. One may not be able to tell it was written in the 70’s. Some of the ideas seem very possible, even today. I think it is one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. It is a pity so few of his books were published. I would recommend this book to anyone even slightly interested in this genre. Even those who may not find science fiction to interesting may find this short little book very, very interesting.

Grade Received:
96% A

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