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Steel Beach Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1993

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 566 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books; Reprint edition (Aug 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441785654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441785650
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 3.1 x 17.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,186,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

It is two centuries since the Invaders kicked humankind off earth…onto the steel beach of Luna's artificial habitat. Here Central Computer is in charge, and doing a fine job: clean air, comfortable climate, nanorobotic antibodies to combat disease, hi-tech surgery to combat injuries sustained, for instance, by the decapitated loser of a slash fight.

However, Hildy Johnson, ace reporter on Luna's tabloid paper 'The News Nipple', is bored, restless and suicidal. And so is Central Computer. The Big Glitch is brewing. Or humankind is set to make its ultimate bid for freedom…

"I've been saying for years that John Varley is the best writer in America. This book proves it"

"'Steel Beach' is one of the very few novels that actually deserves to be compared to the works of Robert Heinlein … full of shocks and surprises, packed with humour and wit … sheer entertainment!"

"The title may become a science fiction catchphrase for the end of the millenium. Because the steel beach is where we live now … probably the most skilful science fiction epic we're likely to come across this year"

"A major novel by a major writer of hard SF"

"Powerful and stunning … An exciting new novel"

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Penny Waugh on 20 Feb 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed this. Yes, the pace wasn't frenetic but that was no drawback - you can and do have far too much action in some books, especially science fiction. I found the characters, if a bit bewildering in their Changes, sympathetic, the ideas thought-provoking and always interesting. It's a long book and needs close attention, but I found it a very good read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Aug 2002
Format: Paperback
Fantastic book with a very different take on a possible future for the human race. Science has advanced to such a degree that nothing is stationary in a person's physical appearance, no work is required and disease no longer exists. Due to this situation, humanity lacks a basic morality as we now conceive it, the only actually crime is to destroy a person's grey matter, anything else can be fixed. This system is governed by an all powerful computer however a lack of 'drive' leads some of its human dependents to seek suicide, the occurences increase and the computer system becomes suicidal itself. An interesting book exploring where 'purpose' may lie in a world where existence no longer has an element of struggle.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JJ Merelo on 26 Oct 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Humankind is exiled from Earth since an invasion taking place in the XXI century; people live in the Moon and other planets, and that's were we meet our main character, Hildy Johnson, a hack that is given the assignment of writing about the differences in life before and after Earth met the aliens. Kind of like an infommercial, but without the washed up former TV stars.
Does it look thrilling to you? Right. The plot meanders from one scene to the next, with cardboard characters coming in and out, lame dialogues, and, to balance a bit the score, good ideas thrown in. Pace is glacial, and you ultimately wonder where the author wants to take you before you drop it. Which is what I did in page 200, approximately, after giving it a second chance around page 150.
This book is presented as an homage to Robert Heinlein, but I haven't read any book by Heinlein that I ultimately enjoyed, and which was much more enjoyable than this one. This book is ultimately a threaded series of short stories badly stitched together. Every story, by itself, could stand on its own, but there's more than that to a good, solid novel. Which this one is not.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 53 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Weird and wonderful 28 Nov 2000
By Beau Yarbrough - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
More than one of my friends has picked up "Steel Beach" on my recommendation, soon after asked me what on Earth I was thinking, and then soon after that told me it was one of the best books they've ever read.
Some people may initially find John Varley a challenging writer, if only because he doesn't flinch at thinking about how sexual mores will change along with science fiction staples as bio-engineering, space colonies and artificial intelligence. As a result, compared to most science fiction, "Steel Beach" initially feels as though it's obsessed with sex, although it's no more so than modern society's sexual obsessions projected forward over the centuries.
Once one gets beyond the discussions of future sexuality that would raise even Hugh Hefner's eyebrows, "Steel Beach" turns out to be about much more. There's a discussion of the role of a free press, celebrity-as-journalist, libertarianism, the role of ambition in human history and, once again, the relationship between God and man.
While not a short novel, "Steel Beach" feels like one, as Varley sends protagonist Hildy Johnson (look up the name on IMDB.com if you don't already get the joke) on a wild roller coaster ride that works both as a straight story and serves to make the thematic medicine go down smoother than smooth: "Steel Beach" never feels like Varley's got a Point To Make.
Ultimately, the book is a wonderful showcase for Varley's Eight Worlds setting -- aliens who sympathize with whales and dolphins have kicked humanity off the planet, almost exterminating them in the process -- and is a big wet kiss to Robert Heinlein's science fiction and worldview.
A rollicking good read, equal to his Gaean Trilogy, and only excelled by them in that we (so far) have only seen one book's worth of character development with Hildy, as opposed to the full arc in "Titan," "Wizard" and "Demon."
A must-buy for Varley fans and fans of Robert Heinlein.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Holy cow, is this good sci-fi! 7 Jun 2005
By Ashley Megan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Steel Beach" was my first introduction into Varley's "Eight Worlds" universe (although he claims that this book technically does not belong in that series because of several timeline inconsistencies, come on, we all know it for what it is). The action in this book takes place much earlier than most of his "Eight Worlds" short stories, right at the Bicentennial celebration of mankind's eviction from Earth.

Denied their own home planet, Varley's humans have nevertheless carved themselves out a few nice spots in the solar system. They've managed to create a society totally dependent upon machines and artificial intelligence for their survival - the "steel beach" of the title, where man must struggle to evolve to his new environment.

Varley addresses a wide range of topics here, everything from suicide and depression to journalism, animal rights, child abuse, and the Second Amendment. Sound awfully didactic? Then you haven't been treated to Varley's prose yet, a delightful mix of cynicism, insight, imagination, and humor. His narrator, a tabloid journalist named Hildebrandt/Hildegarde Johnson (he undergoes a routine sex change partway through the story) walks us through Varley's world conversationally, as though you're an old friend.

I'm always impressed by how well Varley writes women (particularly Cirocco and Gaby from his "Titan" series). Hildy Johnson is another great female character, a tough cookie with a heart of... Well, gild at least. Secondary characters are great, too, although you end the book feeling that there were a lot of stories left untold. I wanted to know so much more about Callie, Walter, Liz, and the Heinleiners! I can only hope Varley returns to Luna soon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of my top-5 favorites of all time 29 Sep 1998
By Lee Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book had me laughing out loud so many times my wife finally read it just to see what was so funny -- and she's not even a sci-fi fan (she loved this book, too). Varley's social commentary is so incredibly amusing and agonizingly accurate that it truly seems as if this were a very possible future for us. While the plot of this book can be a bit slow and wandering at times, the book itself is never boring. I highly disagree with other reviews on here stating that the characters are flat -- Hildy Johnson is, to me, a very believable character who engages my empathy and compassion. The only real problem I had with this book was the fact that it ended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One of the coolest heroines in any fiction novel 11 Sep 1997
By barbara_berger@prenhall.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read all of Varley's works, and this one, while off to a slightly slow start, is worth reading! By the middle, you will be up way past your bedtime following the adventures of Hildy, whose satirical sense of humor had me laughing out loud. A brilliant social and cultural commentary of the future, which reflects on the "lunacy" of many 20th century institutions, such as the ludicrousy of media hype and consumer madness. Non-stop action, great dialogue, and an engrossing story make this one of my favorite science fiction stories, out of the many, many I've read. You really feel like you're there in the future. And I think it IS the plebian aspect of the characters that make them so fun to read about
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant novel in a Heinleinian future 11 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of the best hard-science fiction novels of all time, one that does something most of that genre fails to do: tell a story about human beings.
Hildy Johnson and his/her world is involving, recongnizable without being mundane, and the story is thus all the more exciting.
Moreso than even the world of Varley's "Titan"/"Wizard"/"Demon" trilogy, this is a world I'd like to visit.
While Varley has his fetishes -- freaky future sex and comparing man's relationship to God with man's relationship with computers and alien entities -- he's the solid, mature, subtle writer Heinlein could only be in flashes.
A great read. Buy, read, share.
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