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Odd John (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 8 Mar 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Last And First Men (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (8 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575072245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575072244
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 370,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Book Description

The book that gave the world the term Homo superior.

From the Back Cover

Introduction by Adam Roberts

John Wainwright is a freak, a human mutation with an extraordinary intelligence which is both awesome and frightening to behold. Ordinary humans are mere playthings to him. And Odd John has a plan - to create a new order on Earth, a new supernormal species. But the world is not ready for such a change . . .

Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950)

Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and Liverpool University, Olaf Stapledon worked for a shipping office in Liverpool and Port Said before returning to lecture at Liverpool University. His books included the SF classics Last and First Men and Star Maker.

'Stapledon is the great classical example . . . the ultimate SF writer' Brian Aldiss

'Olaf Stapledon was one of the most creative thinkers of our time' Greg Bear

978 0 575 07224 4
£7.99

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Scientific experiments gone awry, cosmic accidents, super aliens from Krypton or Valhalla - these seems to be the standard superhero formulae. But what about genetic or evolutionary mutation? "Yea, that's called 'The X-Men', you knuckle- head." OK fair enough. But still. Their superpowers remain for the most part of the garden-variety comic book type, since that's where they come from. It takes a novel to see further. A novel like this.

John Wainwright doesn't look like a superhero. He has bulging eyes, a big brow and the features of a foetus. People who look at him are both repulsed and fascinated. He uses his looks as a test of character, other people's character that is. He is beyond testing.

John Wainwright doesn't act like a superhero. He kills a policeman among others. He has affairs with both genders and with his own mother (probably). He bullies others to learn about them and himself, like a scientist conducting experiments with rats. He isn't weighed down with an overwhelming sense of responsibility because of his great gifts. His most usual response is to laugh.

John Wainwright doesn't think like a superhero. He is a maths prodigy, an inventor, he uses his brain. He philosophises; he cares about 'spirituality'. He does not care about homo sapiens, either to rule or destroy us. He is 'homo superior' and only cares about his own kind.

John Wainwright doesn't have powers like a superhero. Oh yes, there's the telepathy, the telekinesis, and assorted psi abilities. But before all this, he has total control over his own psychological and physiological responses. He reads books like other kids drink milkshakes. He can learn a foreign language in two weeks. He composes music that no-one else can appreciate...
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Format: Paperback
Olaf Stapledon's "Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest", published in 1935, is his third novel and it takes the idea of the evolution of homo sapiens into a new race, an idea which he touched on briefly at the end of his second novel "Last Men in London", and this time he devotes the entire work into looking at the interaction between homo sapiens and the new race homo superior. The idea of Supermen was not new, Philip Wylie's "Gladiator" from 1930 is one example which predates "Odd John" and "Last Men in London" for that matter, though Wylie's superman was man-made and not a product of evolution.

What makes Stapledon unique is not the subject matter, but the way he deals with it. The story is told through the eyes of the narrator, an adult human, who is a friend of the Wainwrights. The narrator describes John Wainwright, i.e. Odd John, as a child and through his development growing up and the events that take place. Stapledon's works always have a strong philosophical approach to them, and "Odd John" is no different. He doesn't attempt to show the world through John's eyes, but rather the reaction of a "normal" human to a super-human, and the reaction of humanity to the realization that homo-superiors exist.

Stapledon looks at moral and ethical issues of the interaction between the two species. Man kills animals often enough, so if homo-superior considers homo-sapiens animals, would they have any ethical problem with killing them? Would homo-sapiens have any problem defending their existence by murdering off the homo-superiors before they become too strong? There are a couple aspects missing from the philosophical discussions which occur between the narrator and John, and those are the ideas of sentience and intelligence.
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The other reviews describe this book very well, so I won't go over the same points.

I am working my way through the SF Masterworks collection and this is up there with the best of them.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stands the test of time.
Well written and imaginative. Cleverly thought out.
Leaves lots for the reader to fill in.

Enjoyed this thoroughly.
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Olaf Stapledon is one of the great Sci-Fi imaginations - a highly original and creative writer - all of his books are well worth reading.
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