Today I have a review for the novella BLOEMETJE by Amanda McNeil. It’s a retelling of Thumbelina in a queernormative world in which humans are colonizing Venus because Earth is dying. BLOEMETJE incorporates heavy topics such as climate change, corporate control, and colonialism, among others.
This review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.
About the Book
Author: Amanda McNeil
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: May 18, 2023
Print Length: 74
One miniature girl leads her human and fairy people to decolonize Venus in this speculative, queer-inclusive reimagining of Thumbelina.
A Dutch company known as The Bedrijf commences colonizing Venus via the construction of a dome filled with plants that convert its natural air into something breathable by humans. Since all workers are granted permission to bear a child, a woman and her spouse join the crew. But the woman soon discovers she is plagued with infertility. When her spouse illegally brings home a tulip from the garden, they discover a miniature baby inside who they name Bloemetje – little bloom. As the baby grows in mere days into a teenager, pushing her boundaries, she illuminates the true horrors of colonization and leads them all on a journey to decolonize.
This retelling takes the original Thumbelina’s focus on marriage and flips it on its head, granting the miniature girl a strong voice of her own and questioning her removal from the fairy world. Exploring themes of childlessness, adoption, being childfree by choice, colonization, decolonization, negative impacts of capitalism, and what LGBTQIA+ inclusive societies can look like, this novelette comes in 17 bite-sized episodes perfect for reading in the small snippets of time available to modern individuals and families.
Early readers called this “transporting” and “intriguing.” The “journey is beautiful,” and the ending is “deeply satisfying.” “A great escape read that also made me think, and it’s both quick and engrossing.”
*A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, a Native American-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
BLOEMTJE, Dutch for “little bloom,” is a retelling of Thumbelina. In this tale Earth is more or less uninhabitable and so humans have begun to colonize Venus. The workers on Venus toil to terraform the planet, which includes growing plants and flowers, under the supervision of a mega corporation. This organization even controls when workers can have a child. So when one woman and her partner receive permission to do so, they find she cannot bear a child. In despair, her spouse returns home with a tulip and, to their surprise, it contains a very small child, who they name Bloemetje.
At 74 pages, this novella attempts to tackle quite a number of heavy topics. Those include climate change, corporate control, colonialism, and reproductive choice, and gender identity. Because there are so many topics to explore, I felt that the discussion around each was more of an idealistic lecture. Each discussion often led to another character immediately seeing the light. There was almost no debate, just one character explaining why the other was wrong and a near immediate acceptance of the facts. Perhaps this is because Bloemetje ages essentially one year per day, so she learns as she goes. And maybe gentle lecturing is a way to educate both her and the reader. But I also felt it made everything seem too easily remedied, including the solution to decolonize Venus. I also think perhaps the style of the writing lends itself to a lack of nuanced hardship. That is, BLOEMETJE appears to emulate a straight forward, reader-accepts-everything style of old. As such, I didn’t find this more simplistic style of storytelling as engaging because there was no struggle.
However, I did appreciate Bloemetje’s everlasting hope. Her desire and drive to make her world and Venus’s world a better place were admirable. I also liked that BLOEMETJE occurs in a queernormative world. And although the story style was not my preference, the messages in the book remain important and pertinent to today. For example, t’s important to recognize that corporations have a huge influence over much of the population. One can choose not to have a child and change the norm in a culture. And love or companionship can come in many forms, including outside of one’s species.
Content warnings: infertility, colonialism
Reading format: Kindle e-book