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The John Varley Reader Paperback – 30 Sep 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books (30 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441011950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441011957
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,116,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THIS IS THE story of how I went to the Nearside and found old Lester and maybe grew up a little. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviewer seems to have been reading something else,as this collection of JV's shorter fiction is excellent,as,in my opinion,are all his works,whether they be novels,or collections.His style is as engaging as as you will find,his ideas are original,his characters can be charming and endearing.I became a fan when (British title)Hall of the Martian Kings was initially published,and have remained so ever since.I enjoyed his personal segues into his stories,finding they resonated with me(possibly as we are of a similar age,and have a familiarity with the same things).I would urge any lover of SF to read any one thing of Varley,then I'm certain you'll want to read them all.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. A. Van Berg on 2 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of John Varley's short stories are vignettes organized around some interesting idea about how advanced technology might shape life styles or societies. The stories are often set in a future where humanity occupies the moons and planets of the solar system (except Earth). Varley is perhaps most famous for these so-called "Eight Worlds" stories, even if only one of his three major award-winning stories belongs to this category. The prose is very direct and cinematic---down to the TV-style cold opening paragraphs of the lunar murder mysteries. There is usually some gratuitous sex involved, which can be a bit grating; for instance, it rather detracts from the best story in the collection, "Press enter". Thematically, Varley is a forerunner to nanotech/cyberpunk (Gibson, Bear), while his later pieces strongly evoke the spirit of Frederic Brown.
The stories are linked by Varley's recollections and commentaries, which, unlike the stories themselves, are not a pleasure to read, since he often comes across as oafish and dense, in fact very much like a redneck hick trying to impress the big-city hippie girls. It is unfortunate that Varley does not recognize that his hero Robert A. Heinlein exerts a very bad influence on his writing.
The longest story shares a weakness with Varley's novels: these tend to read like a number of great short story ideas strung together in the jejune sort of pulpy sci-fi plot that heavily relies on the convenient introduction of incredibly rich and or powerful characters (in a word: Heinleinesque).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 23 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Ready to Become a Varley Fan? 5 Nov. 2004
By Doug D. Eigsti - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Varley exploded on the Science Fiction scene in 1974 with the first story in this book, "Picnic on Nearside," and quickly became one of the best loved writers of the 1970s because of his stories. His career as a novelist came later, and if he had only managed to produce these eighteen stories, his place in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame would be assured.

John Varley fans will have already read the first thirteen stories in this book. The last five have never been seen in a Varley collection before, and if you ask me they alone are worth the price of the book. But what about those disenfranchised readers who have somehow managed to miss the Science Fiction of John Varley? Is this the "best of?" Well, owing to Varley's high overall quality, a "best of" collection would necessarily be a weighty tome indeed. The John Varley Reader is a good representative sampling of his short fiction. In it you will find nine stories from Varley's signature Eight Worlds series. (Picnic on Nearside, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, Gotta Sing Gotta Dance, The Barbie Murders, The Phantom of Kansas, Beatnik Bayou, Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo, Options, and The Bellman.)

The independent stories in this collection are among the best Science Fiction has to offer: "Air Raid" is a time travel shocker that was later expanded into the fantastic, witty, fun novel Millennium, and a lackluster film of the same name.. "The Persistence of Vision," "Press Enter," and "The Pusher," are all multiple award winners. If you haven't yet read them, buy this book just for that reason. They are that good. These stories are also prime reasons why Varley is so highly regarded in the field.

The five previously uncollected stories are all essential reading for Varley fans: "Just Another Perfect Day" is a tight exploration of short-term memory loss and how it relates to true love and the incomprehensible motives of alien invaders. It is followed by "Fading Suns and Dying Moons" which carries on the theme of incomprehensible aliens but with a sinister twist. "Good Intentions" is Varley's entry in the sell-your-soul-to-the-devil category. And "The Bellman" is an Eight Worlds story, featuring the character Anna-Louise Bach, written decades ago but that languished in limbo waiting for Harlan Ellison's long awaited collection "The Last Dangerous Visions."

In all this is a great introduction to John Varley. For those to whom Varley needs no introduction, there are introductions for each story that contain autobiographical tidbits. These introductions are laced with Varley's characteristic wit and style. "The Persistence of Vision" had a particularly interesting origin, one that cannot be guessed from the story itself. Varley manages to keep his private life out of his stories, still it is curious to know a little of the author's frame of mind at the time of writing. The reader will be interested to know that at the time he wrote "Press Enter" Varley was a complete computer novice. These and many more details are waiting for you inside. For me, these details are worth the price of the book. You will be hard pressed to find a stronger single author collection. If these don't turn you into a Varley fan, then Varley is not for you.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
I don't give out 5 stars lightly 8 Nov. 2004
By H. J. Spivack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ever hear a band, read a book or see a film where the singer/writer/director seems to have done their best work before you found them? Bruce Springsteen is a good example. Play any of his music before and then after The River and you'd have a hard time proving their the same artist.

Having said that, John Varley remains one of my favorite authors and I have high hope he's going to knock my socks off again. The John Varley Reader did that but I'd read most of it before. I want a new Gaea, Louise Baltimore, Cirocco Jones! I want Titanides, symbs and the Eight Worlds! I just haven't gotten it in awhile.

But when I was...John Varley remains one of my favorite authors.

I first read his Gaea trilogy and was bowled over by how fantastic the story was. His Living World (Gaea) and Cirrocco Jones are two characters that I've revisited many times over the years. I've reread the trilogy no less than a half dozen times.

After reading his short story collections (Persistence of Vision and Blue Champagne) I decided that the Eight Worlds was pretty amazing and his short stories as fun and tight as they come. After 5 years of searching every bookstore, I found The Ophiuchi Hotline and it became my favorite book of all time. Man, but that boy could write!

Millenium kicked but was tonally different. Great book, can't stop reading it when I start, but I guess that was the morph from the Varley then and the Varley now. I know in the autobiographical parts of the Reader, it seems like things did change for him at that point. Superheroes, a collection of short stories by other people about (what else) superheroes was fun, but it was not a true Varley novel.

Recent years have brought some disappointments for me. Steel Beach and the Golden Globe I could not work my way through. Red Thunder is a lot of fun and very reminiscent of Heinlein's work for younger readers. There is enough meat there to entice adult readers and reminded me of why I liked Varley in the first place. From his notes in the Reader, it seems Mr. Varley is writing a sequel to Red Thunder. I await it eagerly.

Eagerly but sadly. I've spent years waiting to be bowled back over and its ironic that it took this collection of short stories to do it.

Suffice it to say that they're just as wild, inventive and dynamic as they were when I read them in my teens and the couple of times since. They're amazing and this collection reminds me of nothing quite so much as the possibilities of scifi and where it can take you.

John, if you're reading this...bravo! And if you are, please make a return to form! Knock my socks off like Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo. Or the Barbie Murders or the Trilogy. I'm quite happy waiting for whatever you write next, but would love to see you back doing what you do best: inventing a future where we'd all choose to live. Thanks again for all the great words!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
30 years of greatness 14 Jan. 2006
By David Hood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As someone who had only read the novels of John Varley, excepting one short story, which happened to be the last story in this collection, The Bellman, I came to it with fresh eyes and no fog of nostalgia from reading the stories when they were new.

Not only are the stories solid, we also get some brief autobiography and background of the stories containing such interesting info as Varley rates a car as one of the best places he's lived(during Woodstock), his first novel didn't get published, but his first short story, which is contained in this collection, did, he does not like writers groups and showing his work for criticism and generally does not rewrite his work.

Not only do the stories, particularly the 8-worlds and the Anna-Louise Bach stories, have the wow factor one expects from the field, they also make you think. Particularly the 8-worlds stories where gender changing, body changing and age changing is fast, easy and ubiquitious. What happens to gender roles and how people relate when your friend shows up at your door tomorrow as the opposite sex?

One problem of story collections is that it can be a little much to read nothing but short bites of the same author, to badly mix a metaphor, but this collection gets it right despite a moderate length by mixing the stories of his various milieus up. At the end you will be sated with Varley, but not fed up.

Highly recommended, as are his Gaea trilogy.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
John Varley Reader 17 Oct. 2005
By N. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love John Varley and have all his short story collections. I only decided to buy this because there were 4 new stories that I had not read. I'm so glad I did. His introductions to each story are so interesting, that even if there were no new stories I would want this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Essential Varley Short Science Fiction 12 Dec. 2007
By M. L. Whitlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you're new to Varley and want to explore his short stories, or a long time fan but just want a collection of his short fiction, this is the collection to get. It has the very best of his short fiction including three Hugo and Nebula award winners. These are "The Persistence of Vision," "Press Enter" and "The Pusher." I have always thought "Press Enter" and "The Pusher" were two of the most powerful and original science fiction stories I've ever read. "Press Enter" is spine chilling and creepy but only after reading the last page. Before then it's an enjoyable murder mystery and love story. "The Pusher" is the best science fiction story ever written about time dilation for space travelers. In addition, "Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo" will hold your attention to the very tragic end. Varley is one of the best writers in America today. He just happens to write science fiction. This is a collection of his best short stuff with the author's fascinating intros and comments for each story.
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