Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Venus on the Half-Shell” as Want to Read:
Venus on the Half-Shell
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Venus on the Half-Shell

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,603 ratings  ·  193 reviews
Simon Wagstaff is the Space Wanderer, a seeker of truth and electric banjo player who narrowly escapes the Deluge that destroys Earth when he happens upon an abandoned Chinese spaceship, the Hwang Ho. A man without a planet, he gains immortality from an elixir drunk during a sexual interlude with a cat-like alien queen in heat. Now, with his pet owl, his dog Anubis and a s ...more
208 pages
Published (first published 1974)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Venus on the Half-Shell, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Venus on the Half-Shell

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,603 ratings  ·  193 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Venus on the Half-Shell
Dec 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I always try to think of some positive spin for the books I read, even ones I don't like. My positive spin? This cover truly captures that pulp paperback feel:

Sadly I don't have that cover, so there is nothing redeeming about my copy of the book.

Are you proud of yourself Farmer? I hope you are, because at least then we can say someone took some small measure of joy from this miserable experience, because it sure as hell wasn't me. What's that? It was supposed to be a joke?

I get the goddamn joke
As everyone knows who's come across him in Kurt Vonnegut's books, Kilgore Trout had great ideas, but couldn't write. So, in a way, it's fitting that Philip José Farmer had a great idea - actually to write the Kilgore Trout novel Venus on the Half Shell, which is referred to in God Bless You, Mr Rosewater - but that the result is embarrassing for everyone concerned.

The best part of Venus is definitely the blurb on the back cover, which, at least in the edition I read, faithfully reproduces the t
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014

Writing, and reading, fan fiction is a risky business. I know of a couple of succesful attempts : The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn and arguably the Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding (for Firefly fans). In the case of Philip Jose Farmer, I must confess I was underwhelmed, the main reason being I'm such a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut that I couldn't help comparing this parody project with the master's originals.

In Farmer's defense, the trashy plot and the florid style was probably deliberate.
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
lots of people seem to find this book silly. well, it was written by a dude who pretended to be Vonnegut's favorite made-up author, kilgore trout. but you know, i loved it, seriously. it was odd, whimsical, with a touch of seriousness here and there to be followed up by self-mockery. since i've been mildly self-aware i've adored, by genetic default, the works of Vonnegut, forced upon me by parents with crazy love for him. so, i must admit, the only thing the man ever did which depresses me was t ...more
Mar 31, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: softcover, special
Oh my gosh. I have a special place to put books like this while I am reading them. It is a place where there is no other book within reach, such as work, car and such. This ensures that I will pick it up from time to time and eventually read it all the way through. I did not expect much from VOTH-S but what I hoped it would not be, unfortunately, it was.

Philip Josee Farmer, a writer who's work I have enjoyed from time to time, had come up with the cool idea to write a Kilgore Trout novel (and I
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Kilgore Trout"'s only published novel is like a cross between The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Oz books, except 20 times dirtier. Simon Wagstaff is on a quest for the answers to his questions, namely, "Why are we here?" and..."Who created all these weird candy-heart shaped indestructable towers on most of the planets in the universe -- but not Earth's galaxy?" Simon gets one of his questions answered, and meets some very interesting aliens along the way. Except for the long, involve ...more
Jerry Jose
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kilger Trout is a familiar name among Vonnegut fans, the fictional sci fi writer whose existence every reader secretly wished and googled for. Though Farmer’s version made Vonnegut cross, who according to internet overstatement legends, had dismissed the novel as a fakers drivel (mostly coz of creator ambiguity, which was later cleared by a by-line), I found it pretty fab.

This book is weird, comical, extremely absurd, reference filled and absolutely staggering. I was enraptured from the very int
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vonnegut, heroes
This book might be my best find... EVER.

Thsi book is a book by Kilgore Trout, a well known alter ego for Kurt Vonnegut Readers. He is a science finction Author that only gets published in dirty magazines as filler between the pictures. He has had hundreds of stories published this way and some of his story ideas are great. Except.. he does not actually exists...
Untill thsi book came out. A great read in the style of Kurt Vonnegut. Only later did everyone realize it was a book by Farmer.
Still.. I
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Philip Jose Farmer wrote this under the name Kilgore Trout, which was a fictional author created by Kurt Vonnegut. It seemed to stay pretty close to Vonnegut's style and approach to me, but I'm not a big Vonnegut fan so I couldn't be absolutely sure. It was definitely tongue in cheek and more focused on amusing incidents rather than any overall plot. A fairly easy read but not particularly enjoyable for me.
Drew Barth
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
What did I think? I don't even know.
A copy of this was given to me by my Junior year English teacher after doing a presentation on Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, just the fact that one of Kilgore Trout's books was actually released was astonishing to me. Here is a man, more or less, who has written dozens, if not hundreds of various novels and stories over a sordid career that spans decades, and this is the one they saw fit to release in this universe?
Well, I can't really complain abo
Jenny Clark
This was a pretty good book, with some great funny moments.
Leila Anani
Shallow person that I am I bought this book entirely for the cover, but come on what an absolutely awesome trashy cover! It just had to be bought. Sadly I don't think the contents live up to the gorgeous artwork.

The story follows a banjo playing bum Simon Wagstaff who manages to escape a cleansing flood of Biblical proportions in a Chinese spacecraft. He picks up a dog he calls Anubis, an owl called Athena and a female android called Chworktap and together they roam through space on Simon's ques
Justin Strangward
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Absurdists
I see people reviewing this as fan fiction and thats not quite right. I used to see dog-eared copies of this book in bookshops, pre-internet. As a teenager, I didn't know it wasn't by Vonnegut. In fact the picture on the back was of some bloke in a hat, shades and beard. It might be Vonnegut? Its not until I met grownups who had read Vonnegut, that could tell me that it was a sham. There was no way of knowing.

Its a hard book to read as it is pure baloney up until the last beautiful sentence. To
Jul 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: lusty young sci-fi fans
This was my dad's old paperback. He gave it to me in... high school? The story around the book (that Farmer wrote it as Kurt Vonnegut's fictional science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, effectively making it like... meta-fan-fiction?) is more interesting than the story in the book itself. The story itself is "just OK", following along with some fairly familiar sci-fi tropes and adding a sprinkling of puerile sexuality. I smirked a few times, but never chuckled. To me it was more interesting to try ...more
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
As other reviewers have suggested, it's like Douglas Adams, but with much more bodily humor. So, light and crude. For me, it seems credible that this might have been the kind of thing that Kurt Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout might have written had he been a real person (the novel is actually authored by Philip José Farmer, who appropriated the name of Vonnegut's fictional writer as an homage to Vonnegut. ...more
James Hold
May 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Can I give this zero stars? Vonnegut was reluctant to let Farmer write this. Having read other Farmer 'works' I can understand why. Not satisfied with ruining Doc Savage and Tarzan he turned his bombardier sites on Vonnegut with the expected results. Neither funny nor entertaining it stands as another entry in the increasing mystery of why PJF ever got published or why some think he was a good writer. Trout, in Vonnegut's world, was a bad writer with good ideas. PJF is a bad writer--period. If t ...more
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Hilarious, and AMAZINGLY, I was wrong that I always thought Vonnegut had either written it or at least contributed more than just the fictional author. I have a new found respect for Farmer.
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first read this 40 years ago when it came out. I was reading Vonnegut quite a bit at the time so I knew of his character, the hack science fiction author Kilgore Trout. I recall liking it at the time but I really did not remember much, just a few of the scenes and situations.

The current reading was a 2013 reissue that includes quite a bit of foreword and afterword material on the story behind Philip Jose Farmer writing as Kilgore Trout and some of the drama behind that since the real author w
Christopher Baldwin
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
I actually read this one, as it wasn't on audiobook (that I could find). And I get how he wanted it to be a tribute to Vonnegut (Farmer wrote it as "Kilgore Trout" a character who is a novelist from Kurt Vonnegut Jr's books), but I also get how Vonnegut tried to ignore it despite initially giving it permission to happen. It has a lot in it which pays tribute to Vonegut's writing and wit, but I didn't find it had the same depth. Some element which holds Vonnegut together seemed missing.

Also, I di
Oct 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Rob by: The Indiana Bard
Shelves: sci-fi
Strange, yet compelling book. There were portions I really liked, some other portions that we just so so, but overall a good read. I enjoyed the silliness, satire, and farce, but at the same time, the author (Philip Jose Farmer, for those who don't know) peppers in some interesting bits that make you think.

Any book that talks about aliens whose method of locomotion is propulsion-by-farting can't be all bad... :)
Erik Graff
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Farmer/Vonnegut fans
Recommended to Erik by: a Grinnellian
Shelves: sf
This book was handed to me as a curiosity soon after graduation from Grinnell College. It was very silly--not one of Farmer's better works. Still, the idea of producting something by Kilgore Trout was an amusing one.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was “written” by Kilgore Trout, a fictional prolific-but-not-very-good-and-therefore-unsuccessful writer of science fiction novels. Mr. Trout appears in several of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s novels, notably “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Thus, I initially thought that Mr. Vonnegut had written this book, as only Kilgore Trout was presented as the author. However, it was actually written by Philip Jose Farmer, a respected SF author, who had (according to Wikipedia, with Mr. Vonnegut’s permiss ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining, uncannily successful Vonnegut pastiche from Farmer. I think Farmer is really underrated. He was playing the same games as Calvino and Borges and remaining commercially viable. BTW, Douglas Adams fans need to read this book; you'll thank me.

Oct 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Venus on the Half-Shell by Philip José Farmer is purportedly written by Kilgore Trout. Farmer used that pseudonym in honour of Kurt Vonnegut Jr and a character, Trout, who appears in a number of Vonnegut's books.
The story is about the Space Wanderer, an Earthman Simon Wagstaff, who excapes a destroyed Earth in a Chinese spaceship, accompanied by a dog, Anubis, and an owl, Athena. Along the way, he picks up another passenger, a female robot, Chworktap, who is programmed for sex. Simon begins a 'G
John Maberry
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
How embarrassing to find only now that the book I thought was written by Kurt Vonnegut, under the pseudonym of his Kilgore Trout character, was actually written by Philip Jose Farmer. So it goes (haha). It's probably due to the fact that it seems, to me at least, that Farmer was channeling Vonnegut in the satirical style of the latter. Trout, of course, was a fictional character. It's much like the silliness of ABC-TV in creating books by Richard Castle, their TV character, matching books the TV ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's important to take this book in context. (Out of context it's just plain silly.) But if you are a Vonnegut fan AND a science fiction buff you will see oodles of tributes and jabs in this tongue-in-cheek satire of modern society/spoof of space opera combo along the lines of Harry Harrison's "Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers." (How's that for a run-on sentence?) I think Farmer is brilliant here even though I've never been much of a fan of his other work.
This book reads like bad Vonnegut, which, of course, was the author's intention as he is having fun writing a book supposedly by Kilgore Trout. So I guess in that sense, it is a success. On the other hand, I think it is fair to ask whether life is too short to bother with reading a book that intentionally reads like bad Vonnegut? It just might be.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, comedy, slapstick
This book is totally amazing.
You can be sure that Vonnegut was jealous he hadn't wrote it.

My problem is that the end was botched in a manner as if the author had been writing on commission by the page, and simply stopped with the attitude of "screw-it, that's all you paid for foikers."
C.S. Fuqua
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Taking on the persona of Kurt Vonnegut's fictional writer Kilgore Trout to create a fictional book credited to Trout in one of Vonnegut's novels, Philip Jose Farmer provides a wondrous tribute to Vonnegut and Vonnegut's humor. An excellent SF romp.
Pat Cooney
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you should judge a book by its cover which in this case, with the original cover artwork, is completely accurate. Absolutely hysterical, witty in the dumbest way possible, and lovingly mocking of sci-fi. Super fast and a great break from more serious fare.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Deadeye Dick
  • Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
  • Hocus Pocus
  • God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian
  • Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage
  • The Demolished Man
  • Callahan's Secret (Callahan's #3)
  • Bagombo Snuff Box
  • The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2)
  • Collected Fiction
  • P.S. Your Cat Is Dead
  • The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3)
  • Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
  • The Sunless Countries (Virga, #4)
  • Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore
  • Fast Sofa
  • The Sirens of Titan
  • Wyrms
See similar books…
Philip José Farmer was an American author, principally known for his science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, but spent much of his life in Peoria, Illinois.

Farmer is best known for his Riverworld series and the earlier World of Tiers series. He is noted for his use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for and reworking of th

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett...
121 likes · 46 comments
“La sabiduria consiste en saber cuando evitar al perfeccion” 3 likes
More quotes…