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John Varley

(1947- )
John Varley grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, went to college in Michigan, and visited San Francisco during 1967, the “Summer of Love.” He has published many short stories, novellas and novels. Varley has won three Hugo Awards, two Nebulas, and ten Locus awards for works like “The Persistence of Vision,” and “Press Enter.” His novels include The Ophiuchi Hotline and his trilogy Titan, Wizard and Demon.

The Ophiuchi Hotline: Full of interesting ideas

The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley

Dr. Lilo Alexandr-Calypso, a brilliant geneticist who lives on the moon, has broken the law by fiddling with the human genome. Just as she’s about to be executed, she is saved by a group of vigilantes who want to use her skills to help them free the Earth from the alien invaders who’ve taken over and kicked the humans off.

Lilo doesn’t want to serve anyone, but their leader, a former president of Earth, has captured a clone of her and says that either she or the clone will be executed for Lilo’s crime. It doesn’t seem right for the clone to live on, so Lilo agrees to participate, thinking she’ll escape. She’s taken to a secret hideout located on a Jovian moon and set to work for the Free Earthers. She doesn’t like the work, which involves experiments designed to discover how to kill the invading aliens, but every time she escapes (or dies trying), she just gets cloned again. Now ... Read More

Steel Beach: Did Not Finish

Steel Beach by John Varley

I hate giving up on books I plan to review but, unfortunately, this is the second one in a month that I’ve had to abandon.

Steel Beach (1992) is the second in John Varley’s stand-alone novels set in his EIGHT WORLDS universe in which vastly superior aliens have kicked humans off of planet Earth so they can commune with the dolphins and whales (who are more intelligent, in their eyes, than humans). I liked the first EIGHT WORLDS book, The Ophiuchi Hotline, because, though it had its share of problems — weak characterization, confusing plot, uneven pacing —... Read More

The Persistence of Vision: Fascinating

The Persistence of Vision by John Varley

In a post-apocalyptic near-future, a middle-aged drifter roams from commune to commune in the Southwest United States. Each of these groups has its own culture and he stays a while at each, doing whatever he needs (e.g., going nude, praying, chanting “Hare Krishna”) to fit in while he’s there. This works well for him — he stays fed and sheltered and moves on when he’s ready for a change of scenery.

But when he comes across a walled-in settlement in the middle of Native American land, he finds that he can never fit in because the group who lives there are the adult descendents of women who contracted rubella while pregnant. All of these adults are both deaf and blind, though their children are not. At first the drifter is fascinated by the ways they’ve developed to get around their “handicap,” but soon he learns that, in their community, he’s the one with the disability bec... Read More

Press Enter: Works on so many levels

Press Enter by John Varley


Victor Apfel, a lonely middle-aged veteran of the Korean War, gets a recorded phone call asking him to come to his reclusive neighbor’s house to take care of what he finds there. The voice promises that he’ll be rewarded. Victor would like to ignore the message, but he gets another call every 10 minutes. When Victor arrives at Charles Kluge’s house, he finds Kluge dead and slumped over his computer keyboard, so he calls another neighbor — a computer operator named Hal (har, har) — and the cops. When the computer screen asks them to PRESS ENTER, they do, and this initiates Kluge’s strange interactive suicide note. Things get weirder when Victor finds a large deposit in his bank account and the cops find no record anywhere of Charles Kluge. Even the IRS didn’t know about him.

The police investigator doesn’t think it’s a ... Read More

More speculative fiction by John Varley

Gaea — (1979-1984) Publisher: Titan: a world inside a world. Outside it was a vast, wheel-shaped construct orbiting Saturn; inside — it was impossible, bizarre, an endless landscape inhabited by creatures out of legend. And it had captured the crew of a NASA probe.

science fiction book reviews John Varley Gaea 1. Titan 2. Wizard 3. Demon science fiction book reviews John Varley Gaea 1. Titan 2. Wizard 3. Demon science fiction book reviews John Varley Gaea 1. Titan 2. Wizard 3. Demon

Red Thunder — (2003-2014) Publisher: In the highly anticipated new novel by John Varley, a manned mission to Mars becomes a personal mission for an unlikely bunch of astronauts: seven suburban misfits who have constructed a spaceship built out of old tanker cars and held together with all-American ambition. They call her Red Thunder. They plan to be the first people on the Red Planet… despite China’s big head start. If it didn’t sound so crazy, it would be history in the making…

John Varley science fiction book reviews 1. Red Thunder 2. Red Lightning 3. Rolling Thunder John Varley science fiction book reviews 1. Red Thunder 2. Red Lightning 3. Rolling Thunder John Varley science fiction book reviews 1. Red Thunder 2. Red Lightning 3. Rolling Thunder fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

John Varley science fiction book reviews The Ophiuchi Hotline Millennium — (1983) Publisher: In the skies over Oakland, California, a DC-10 and a 747 are about to collide. But in the far distant future, a time travel team is preparing to snatch the passengers, leaving prefabricated smoking bodies behind for the rescue teams to find. And in Washington D.C., an air disaster investigator named Smith is about to get a phone call that will change his life… and end the world as we know it.

John Varley science fiction book reviews The Ophiuchi Hotline Blue Champagne — (1986) Publisher: This story collection contains: The Pusher (1981), Blue Champagne (1981), Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo (1986), Options (1979), Lollipop and the Tar Baby (1977), The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) (1984), The Unprocessed Word (1986), Press Enter [] (1984).

John Varley science fiction book reviews The Ophiuchi Hotline, The Golden Globe The Golden Globe — (1998) Publisher: Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, John Varley is truly one of the “greats” of science fiction, comparable only to Heinlein, Herbert, Asimov, and Clarke. Now the all-time master returns — with his long-awaited epic novel of life beyond the great beyond… All the universe is a stage, and Sparky Valentine is its itinerant thespian. He makes his way from planet to planet as part of a motley theater troupe, at could put the universe back to square one. And it is not terrifying. It is tempting…The John Varley Reader

The John Varley Reader — (2004) Publisher: From the moment John Varley burst onto the scene in 1974, his short fiction was like nothing anyone else was writing. His stories won every award the science fiction field had to offer, many times over. His first collection, The Persistence of Vision, published in 1978, was the most important collection of the decade, and changed what fans would come to expect from science fiction. Now, The John Varley Reader gathers his best stories, many out of print for years. This is the volume no Varley fan — or science fiction reader — can do without.

John Varley science fiction book reviews The Ophiuchi Hotline, The Golden Globe Mammoth — (2005) Publisher: Not content with investing his fortune and watching it grow, multibillionaire Howard Christian buys rare cars that he actually drives, acquires collectible toys that he actually plays with, and builds buildings that defy the imagination. But now his restless mind has turned to a new obsession: cloning a mammoth… In a barren province of Canada, a mammoth hunter financed by Christian has made the discovery of a lifetime: an intact frozen woolly mammoth. But what he finds during the painstaking process of excavating the huge creature baffles the mind. Huddled next to the mammoth is the mummified body of a Stone Age man around 12,000 years old. And he is wearing a wristwatch. It looks like Howard Christian is going to get his wish — and more…

John Varley science fiction book reviews Slow ApocalypseSlow Apocalypse — (2012) Publisher: Despite wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 9/11, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has kept the nation tied to the Middle East. A scientist has developed a cure for America’s addiction — a slow-acting virus that feeds on petroleum, turning it solid. But he didn’t consider that his contagion of an Iraqi oil field could spread to infect the fuel supply of the entire world… In Los Angeles, screenwriter Dave Marshall heard this scenario from a retired US marine and government insider who acted as a consultant on Dave’s last film. It sounded as implausible as many of his scripts, but the reality is much more frightening than anything he could have envisioned. An ordinary guy armed with extraordinary information, Dave hopes his survivor’s instinct will kick in so he can protect his wife and daughter from the coming apocalypse that will alter the future of Earth — and humanity…

John Varley science fiction book reviews Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe: And Other Stories Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe: And Other Stories — (2013) Publisher: This stellar collection by John Varley contains eleven provocative, utterly distinctive stories and novellas. None of them are currently available in any other book. Some have been unavailable in any form for twenty-five years or more. The result is a publishing event that no admirer of Varley — or of first-rate imaginative fiction — can afford to miss. The bulk of these stories comprise what the author calls a ‘Grand Tour of the Solar System,’ moving from one thoroughly imagined setting to another with deceptive ease. ‘The Funhouse Effect’ is a tale of mystery, intrigue, and illusion that takes place on a mechanized comet moving toward the sun s corona. ‘Retrograde Summer’ is an account of gender reversals and family secrets set against the radically unstable backdrop of Mercury. ‘Bagatelle’ pits a recurring Varley character — Police Chief Anna-Louise Bach–against a living bomb that threatens to devastate Luna’s Dresden City. Other stories range from Venus (‘In the Bowl’) to an underground ‘disneyland’ on Pluto (‘Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe’) to the unexplored reaches of deep space (‘The Black Hole Passes’). The collection ends with two very different offerings that are nonetheless vintage Varley. ‘The Unprocessed Word’ is a whimsical reflection on one writer s relationship with a ubiquitous, constantly evolving technology, while ‘The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)’ is a brief, absolutely chilling meditation on the consequences of nuclear proliferation. Whatever the tone, style, or subject matter, Varley remains in complete control of this impressively varied material. Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories provides intellectual stimulation and pure entertainment in equal measure, and bears the unmistakable hallmark of a master storyteller on every page.