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Great Book For Any Time
on 29 April 2010
"Star Maker", by Olaf Stapledon, is an incredible novel by an author whose contributions to science fiction are unique and serve as inspiration to many of the greatest works in the field. It was Stapledon's fourth novel and was first published in 1937. Narrated by the same voice as narrated "Last and First Men" the novel is a sequel of sorts, but at the same time it has a much larger scope and thus there is no noticeable overlap between the two novels. As with "Last and First Men", "Star Maker" is not a conventional novel, so if that is what you are looking for, you should look elsewhere. It is a philosophical journey rather than a conventional story with a traditional plot and characters.
The narrator takes the reader on a journey through the universe and through time, starting on a hill near his home, and ultimately finding the creator of the universe, i.e. the Star Maker. He witnesses the entire life of the universe, and joins with many other minds from other civilizations throughout the galaxy. It is tempting to use phrases like "for its time" when describing this book, but it is a remarkable work for any time. I am sure that some of descriptions of civilizations and their scientific achievements would change if it were written today. However, the statement that the book makes would likely remain the same.
One does not need to read "Last and First Men" (or "Last Men in London" for that matter) to read this novel. The few remarks made in the narration that reference "Last and First Men" will not cause the reader any difficulty. They pass by almost unnoticed, as the reader's focus is on the amazing scope and vision which are contained in this novel. Stapledon's works are not the easiest reads, but they are well worth the effort. The echos of Stapledon's ideas can be read in the works of numerous authors and in some of the greatest works of science fiction.
This book was tied for 13th on the Arkham Survey in 1949 as one of the `Basic SF Titles'. It also was tied for 30th on the 1975 Locus All-Time poll for Novels; and 32nd on the 1998 Locus All-Time Poll for Novels written prior to 1990. This particular edition includes a Foreword by Brian W. Aldiss, and also includes A Note on Magnitude, Time Lines, and a Glossary all created by Olaf Stapledon. This is the 21st of the SF Masterworks paperbacks released by Victor Gollancz Books. If this is an indication of the quality of work they have done throughout the series, then it is a very worthwhile series to own.