Tonke Dragt

The Forests of Venus

A gripping science-fiction novel about the first human colony on Venus, written by a born storyteller

Science fiction from 1969 – does it still stand up? Anyone reading The Forests of Venus would have to conclude that it does. Tonke Dragt foresaw many developments, and her futuristic account of life on Venus remains a convincing and captivating read.

In The Forests of Venus (Torenhoog en mijlen breed) Dragt sketches the Earth as one big city without any trees. Humans venture out to explore Venus from inside the safety of a large dome. This book tells the story of Edu, a young planetary researcher on his second expedition to Venus. While there are no forests left on Earth in Edu’s day, on Venus they are stunning and unspoilt: ‘Scaly trunks leading up to huge serrated leaves, pink, orange, yellow… And between them suddenly trees that were darker, from purple to black; they looked as if they were made of smoke, with feathered crowns.’

Edu is drawn to these mysterious, dangerous forests, but they are out of bounds to researchers. Defying the rules, he makes a spectacular discovery: there is life on the planet. He finds intelligent beings, the Afroini, who can read thoughts – and he finds that he has much in common with them.

Although the book is unquestionably a gem of science fiction, full of high-tech airships and robots, it addresses real dilemmas, about daring to go off the beaten track and about humankind’s relationship with nature. The book was published in the year of Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, when space travel and research into other planets were still in their infancy. Government control and the loss of privacy are described in a credible and incisive way, providing food for thought. The Forests of Venus is a thrilling adventure, partly inspired by Dragt’s childhood in Indonesia, and it takes the reader to fascinating new worlds.

Lively storytelling that is both meticulous and inventive, […] with a balanced composition, and precision in both style and wording.

Jury Nienke van Hichtum Prize

Tonke Dragt is a star.

The Guardian

“Planetary Researcher Eleven, on observation flight in the south- east zone, Venus Headquarters calling…”
The weather had remained unusually suitable for observation flights and all but one of the researchers had taken off. They always crewed the airships in pairs, but this time an exception had been made because Iman, Researcher Fourteen, was not yet able to go to work.
And that exception was Edu. He usually went out with Mick, but this time Edu had told Mick to take Iman’s place and go with Arno.
Going alone on an exploration… it was not forbidden, but it was unusual. Mick had resisted a little before complying with the wishes of Researcher Eleven, the leader who had more expe- rience than he did. Was it Mick, Edu wondered, who had sent the robot to him? It had approached him shortly before depar- ture and offered to accompany him. Edu had declined the offer, but he had made use of the opportunity to order the robot to fetch something for him. The robot had instantly obeyed. After all, it had no reason not to do so, and robots were made to serve humans.
Edu smiled, but his smile was not a happy one. An observation flight on my own, for the first time, maybe the last. And I’ve never followed the rules so closely before – at least until now.
“Planetary Researcher Eleven, Venus Headquarters calling Planetary Researcher Eleven. Over.”
“Researcher Eleven responding to Headquarters…” He had been afraid for a moment that they would call him back in. But that had not happened – what could go wrong on an ordinary flight like this? And now his work was nearly done.
“Researcher Eleven, if you have completed your assignment, you may return.” It was not Igor speaking to him from the Dome, but someone else from the radio communications crew: Jon or Joe. He could never tell their voices apart; both were equally impersonal and efficient. This time he preferred it that way.
Edu replied, “Researcher Eleven to Headquarters: the photographs have been taken. Commencing return.” My assignment isn’t over yet – the assignment I set myself. His fingers pressed keys and buttons. I’m flying Route C.

(Excerpt translated by Laura Watkinson)


Tonke Dragt

Tonke Dragt, born in Batavia in 1930, writes adventure books that explore the boundaries of space and time. As a child, Dragt found herself in a Japanese concentration camp. Inspired by Jules Verne, Dragt wrote her first ‘book’ while in captivity. In 1948, back in the Netherlands, Dragt became…

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Torenhoog en mijlen breed (1969). Children's books, 304 pages.

Themes: classic



Wibautstraat 133
1097 DN Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 551 12 50


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