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The Ophiuchi Hotline (Gollancz S.F.) [Paperback]

John Varley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

21 Aug 2003 Gollancz S.F.
Following the effortless capture of Earth by vastly superior aliens, humanity was left to fight for existence on the Moon and other lumps of airless rock. Survival was greatly facilitated by the interception of the Hotline, a constant stream of data from the direction of a star in the constellation Ophiuchus, which enabled the development of amazing new technologies. Four hundred years on, and everything is about to change again because humanity's unknown helpers have just sent what appears to be a bill. It shouldn't matter to Lilo, since she's been caught experimenting with human DNA and sentenced to permanent death for crimes against humanity. But she is rescued by the maverick ex-president of Luna and finds herself - and several illegal clones of herself - caught up in a crazy attempt to liberate Earth from the vast inscrutable entities who have conquered it, and in the sudden emergency that the enigmatic bill presents to all of human civilization...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (21 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575072830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575072831
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,209,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""This is a novel rich in societies, setting, and technological wizardry. It's a tough-minded, yet playful book."

Book Description

'Varley's tight, clean writing, full of wit and good humour, evokes despair, joy, anger and delight. His Luna is packed with wild inventions, intriguing characters and stunning scenery' Publishers Weekly

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The State charges that Lilo-Alexandr-Calypso, during the period of time 1/3/556 to 12/18/567, did willfully and knowingly conduct experiments upon human genetic material with the intent of artificially inducing mutations in said material. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
John Varley's "Eight Worlds" story series has been popular for almost two decades. This novel expands on the previous and subsequent, short stories and provides some of the answers to the more perplexing questions raised in them.Essentially, it is a book of throw -away ideas,Varley provides more hard science concepts per chapter than most other writers present in a whole novel.Here, he examines some of the moral and philosophical issues surrounding, among others, cloning,genetic transformation and what, exactly, does "being human" mean? Underlying this, there is an array of dazzling invented technologies, some spins on previous ideas and some inspired novelties. The multi-stranded plot-lines are initially confusing, particularly the fact that at least three (or is it four) of the main characters are, actually the same person! However, soon the reader is happily jumping from planet to planet, character to character and time-line to time-line. If you want to understand the "Eight Worlds" series, then this is a must read. Jump on board and enjoy the ride!
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Hard Idea oriented SF novel 8 Oct 2000
By Omer Belsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Ophiuchi Hotline is the first John Varley novel I've ever read. Before I've read three Varley short stories: The Exellent 'Press Enter' which was one of the finest novellas I've ever read, and a Hugo award winner, 'Air Raid' which was the basis for the movie 'Millenium', which was pretty good, and 'Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe' which was an unsuccesful 8 Worlds short story.
The consensus amoung SF fans seems to be that Varley is a great short story writer, but not a terrific novelist. When thy talk about his novels, the only one that is REALLY appreciated seems to be 'The Ophiuchi Hotline'. After reading it, I can testify that it is indeed a novel worth talking about.
The Ophiuchi Hotline of the title is a stream of information coming from Ophiuchius constelation. It is the basis of all human knowledge for 5 hundred years - after all, when you got all the answers supplied, why bother studying?
The Story's heroine, Lilo, does wish to study. Furthermore, she wishes to study human genetics - which is illegal. The book follows her story, mostly, as she struggles in a world filled with deception, intrigue, and some of the coolest Science Fictional explorations of many a theme, most notably cloning.
the stuff John Varley does with the idea of cloning in this story, especially at one point about 50 pages into it is brilliant and original. Varley's thoughts about cloning are striking and very clever.
The plotting and characterisation of the novel is generally very well done. Varley can truely differentiate his characters, and manages to make a very complicated plot decievingly simple to follow.
If there's a weakness to the novel it is the ending. All the plots line are resolved, which is quite a difficult and an impressive task, but the novel's end of kind of disappoint anyway. You're expecting a bang, and it goes down with a whispher. A LOUD whispher, mind you, but nonetheless.
Still, Varley is in top form here, and I would recommand this novel easily. It is out of print, but not too hard to find. Go get it.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold explosion of ideas 16 Mar 2004
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The only other book I've read by Varley is the relatively recent Steel Beach, which I enjoyed quite a bit, especially the opening line, which I still remember fondly to this day (if you've read the book you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, crack the book open in a bookstore and you'll see what I mean). The blueprint for a lot of the stuff in that novel can be found here, at least when it comes to Varley's worldview and his interpretation of SF. He does a clever thing in this novel and puts forward a situation that has already happened long in the book's past, so that while it informs the character's present actions, the reader wasn't really there for it, it's part of history. Here, the premise is that humanity has been kicked off Earth by the super-powerful Invaders, who apparently get along real well with dolphins and whatever lives inside Jupiter. Humanity, with nowhere left to go, spreads throughout the solar system and tries to make do with the fact that the homeworld is off limits. Over the years they've been getting all their information from something called the Hotline, a laser beam of information from an unknown source that they can only translate partially, but what they can figure out has made life interesting for everyone. In this novel, the presentation is just as important as the plot and Varley pulls out all the stops to depict his wild future history, of a human culture adapted to the stars, where sex changes and physical changes are completely ordinary . . . for all the wacky stuff, he manages to make it feel real, not an easy thing to do. The plot has to do with a man named Tweed trying to figure out how to get rid of the Invaders . . . to that end he gathers various people who have been kicked out of society and tries to use them . . . sometimes cloning them when things go slightly awry. The issues of cloning and genetics are consistently impressive and well thought out, almost surreal in a sense, especially when it focuses on the slightly rebellious main character Lilo, who keeps getting cloned more often than she'd like. Meanwhile just to make things more complicated, the Hotline seems to have sent along a phone bill, and no one is quite sure what that's supposed to mean. This is a lot of story for such a slim book and Varley manages to pull it off with a lot of skill, although the ending is still rather abrupt and the plot seems to lose focus toward the end. It can also be said that the idea of humanity playing third fiddle to just about everyone is sort of depressing and certainly not the most uplifting concept, but hey, life is like that sometimes. Not everything comes up roses all the time. His people soldier on anyway, determined to live their lives, even if in the cosmic scheme of things it's utterly pointless. Not a crowd pleasing premise, but the images and ideas he puts forward are amazing, his future is just as fully realized and complex as the real world and you won't regret any of the time you invest in both finding this book (I think it's still out of print, but far from rare) and reading it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great start for a major writer . . . 12 Mar 2002
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
This is another of those books that I read shortly after it first appeared and have re-read every decade or so since. Though Varley had already made a reputation with a number of exceptional short stories, this was his first novel, and in many ways it laid the groundwork for most of his subsequent lengthier work: A future in which "The Invaders," an extrasolar species so very alien, humanity has little chance of ever understanding it, has stopped off on Earth to liberate the various cetacean races . . . which it regards as superior to humans and fungi. Ninety-nine percent of the human race died of starvation, leaving only the colonists in the Moon and the outer planets to carry the torch. A couple of centuries have now passed and Luna is carrying on business as usual. Lilo, a genetic engineer-entrepreneur, is in deep trouble for experimenting with human clones and has been sentenced to permanent death, but Boss Tweed, the out-of-office head of the Free Earthers (who dream of reclaiming the home planet), has other plans for her. Before long, there are several cloned versions of Lilo banging around the solar system, interacting with several other multiply-cloned persons, all of them illegal. Meanwhile, the beam-cast of technical information from a star in the constellation Ophiuchus has been interrupted by what seems to be a demand for payment for service. Varley has been called the successor to Heinlein, and he certainly has a knack for creative characterization and for casually spinning off startling and intriguing ideas.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A science fiction classic 30 Jan 2004
By GFX - Published on Amazon.com
John Varley for many reasons is one of the best science fiction writers of his generation and The Ophiuchi Hotline is his first major work. Unlike many writers who do setting specific books (e.g. series) Varley makes no pretense about evolving his worlds or simply writing books in worlds that are very similar to each other. This is best exemplified in the later books Steel Beach and The Golden Globe, which relate to each other closely, while The Ophiuchi Hotline shares many of the same settings and ideas.
The Ophiuchi Hotline shows off Varley's talent for writing a different kind of science fiction with a different sort of styling. If you have a used book store in your area, that is probably the best route, though this laster reprint is nice also and one edition or the the should be on your bookshelf.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Middle of Series, Start of Novels, but Stand-Alone 6 Feb 2014
By David A. Lessnau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
John Varley's "The Ophiuchi Hotline" is an interesting book in his "Eight Worlds" universe. It's the first novel in the series (published in 1977), but it lies smack in the middle of the 18 short stories (which run from 1974 through 1985) in the series. The remaining two novels (Steel Beach (published in 1992, but not available in Kindle format for some reason) and The Golden Globe (published in 1998)) are sort of in the series, but aren't necessarily consistent with the rest of the books. Speaking retrospectively (since I've already read them), those two novels also don't follow immediately from the event depicted in this book. I've only read "Steel Beach" and "The Golden Globe" of the "Eight Worlds" works, but I'd say that this book fully stands on its own and doesn't require the previous short stories to be read. If you've read any of Varley before, you'll know exactly what to expect here (a sort of Heinlein-ish style, some interesting takes on technology and society, and a bit too much gratuitous "intimate" behavior). In general, the universe, characters, and plot are all well done and interesting. I rate the book at a Very Good 4 stars out of 5.

The novels in John Varley's "Eight Worlds" universe are:

1. The Ophiuchi Hotline
2. Steel Beach
3. The Golden Globe
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