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on 15 May 2015
Maybe life seems pointless, worthless. Maybe the current political and social debates seem meaningless and fleeting. Is there a God? Is there meaning to the universe? If there is a god, why is there evil in the universe? If you think these debates are a bit hackneyed, a bit stale, then you could very well be ready for the glorious roller-coaster ride of thrills spills and excitement that is Olaf Stapledon's STAR MAKER...

Guaranteed to give you a sense of perspective, a view of the infinite universe in which Earth and human existence is nothing but an infinitesimal speck--and yet, that doesn't matter! we're all part of the cosmic mind!--and then tell you it's nothing but a crude myth.
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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.
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on 6 April 2017
This is the most extraordinary book I have ever read. Fiction, yes. Science fiction, yes. Like any other fiction or science fiction book, no.

To me it was heavy going in the middle, but is worth reading through to a most unexpected finale.

It makes you think. Parallels can be drawn with events both historical and current.

If you want an easy read that can just wash over you - no, not the book for you.
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on 14 November 1999
If, as the majority of people, you have never read an Olaf Stapledon novel, I suggest that you do so immediately. STAR MAKER was the first Stapledon I novel I ever read, and it was more than enough to make me realise the brilliance which this man obviously posessed. A visionary of almost unprecedented levels, in this novel Stapledon takes us from Earth to the far reacing ends of the galaxy, describing new worlds with new social conditions, all of which are used brilliantly to form a satirical commentry on the human condition. A breath-taking novel, that I would recommend to anyone with the desire to read a truely original work that will leave a long-lasting impression.
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on 18 June 2007
Ever wondered where our species is heading? Onwards and upwards towards a glorious future? Or hurtling down into an abyss of our own short-sighted making?

In the dark days of the early twentieth century, Stapledon wrestled with these issues and advanced a plausible, thought-provoking and measured interpretation of our evolution over the next two billion years. This is not Star Trek and the universe of the galaxy spanning empire. Rather this is a universe constrained by physics and the sheer magnitude of the distances involved: a universe where triumph and disaster are treated as long term travel companions rather than the impostors of Kipling.

Would I recommend it? Well that depends on the reader and what they are looking for. If you're after an exciting story, perhaps it would be better to look elsewhere.

But if you're interested in the slow march of time Stapledon advances something very different and, for me, truly extraordinary here ... a view of the future that is both spectacular in its breadth and heart wrenching in its final conclusion. You won't be excited and gripped by the pace and challenge. But something else is at work here. Something subtle, perspective shifting and ultimately moving. It's a gentle opera with deep themes and the ability to place our own worldview into a very different context....

And I first read it as a child twenty years ago ... and it still echoes today. How many books can do that?
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on 15 March 2000
This book, though for me revolutionary, has not received a lot of the recognition I believe it is worthy of. Firstly, it explores many factors now taken for granted in postmodern fiction, e.g. dislocation, divided selves and a sense of 'numbed' perception. Furthermore, like Frank Herbert and Douglas Adams he is able to weave these themes into the narrative, whilst still maintaining a sense of coherence.
He stays within the confines of the science-fiction genre, yet deals with complex and arbitrary issues which blend philosophy and a deep questioning of cultural values. Comparisons with H.G. Wells and John Wyndham are permissible, but it is his use of philosophy that makes me admire him as a great writer. I have yet to find a writer who has the ability to question so much, yet still maintain an aura of intelligibility.
Clearly, this book is a whirlwind trip and yet one worth taking since this is no ordinary author. He may have gained greater recognition for many of his other books, yet it is this book that gives so much to the reader without taking anything away. You may question what he describes to you, but you will not be able to question his ability to tell it to you.
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on 11 December 2001
I have to say that when i first started reading this book, i wasn't that impressed by the first couple of chapters. With its slightly antiquated style and perhaps slightly overlong monologues it felt like reading something like Edward Bellamy's 'looking backward'...This was especially the case as I had just read a Phillip K. Dick novel. However, the sheer imaginative scope of this text is phenomenal, an examination of important philosophical themes such as the ability to comprehend the possible purpose of God (the 'Star Maker') masquerading as a mythological history of the universe. When people refer to any novel as influential, what they seem to mean is that the text captures in its form and function the drift of ideas and concepts at any one time and space. In its treatment of God and the potential (in)significance of humanity, Stapledon's novel certainly is that. Should probably one day be studied at school, where children will marvel at a time when writers were more ambitiuous.
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on 29 March 2013
I came across this book by accident when someone on Radio 4 was extolling its virtues. Firstly, this is not an easy holiday read. The language is intense and complex. Persevere. Secondly, it is wildly inaccurate as foretelling the future. However, the themes are disturbingly real. He sees man (as we know him) as yet to evolve - still with an animal-based nervous system that is unable to reach beyond the pack/the tribe and destructive emotions. He also describes national and international conflicts that are close to the truth in theme rather than fact. I will not say any more. READ IT!
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After 20 years of reading about Last and First Men (they had not even heard of it in Hay-on-Wye)I have found it at last. If your idea of a novel is a book about people's relationships, it may not be for you. That particular element of novels bores me to death and this is more my idea of a compelling read. The history of mankind from 1930 to a few billion years hence is pre-written by a philosopher and fantasist possessed of a great and unquiet mind, inhuman but not inhumane as someone has well put it. On no account skip the opening chapters, whatever anyone tells you. The fact that S got the world's history 1930-2002 completely wrong is not the point -- the rest of it will almost certainly prove to be all wrong too, if we think like that. What these first chapters do is to get us into the author's weird exalted and passionless mindset. He is not so much on another planet as in an alternative universe. It is entirely to the book's advantage that he has no grasp of realpolitik and even that he has no detectable sense of humour -- when I was beginning to feel the latter as a lack I came to the only bit where he ascribes humour to any of his characters, a race of monkeys depicted in general unsympathetically and not least for their possession of this deplorable characteristic. That put me in my place I can tell you. From start to finish I got no sense of either pity or cruelty as he chronicles the the periodic near-annihilations that overtake the various successive human races, and while his account of the systematic extermination of the intelligent life on Venus filled me with a wrenching sense of tragedy that I did not feel for any of the mankinds the author himself seemed as unmoved as ever. If Wuthering Heights was written by an eagle, who or what wrote Last and First Men? Of other human proclivities I can report that sex is methodically accorded its place in a thorough and businesslike manner reminiscent of Peter Simple's great sexologist Profesor Heinz Kiosk (assisted by Dr Melisande Fischbein). Of anything I would recognise as love or affection or friendship I can find not a trace.
-- 'here he has not gone so far as to trouble the eternal gods or the stars that blight our human lot.' That comes in Star Maker. Here the 18th and last men are trapped in our solar system when final doom reaches out from the stars. Next -- Star Maker, which makes this book seem parochial.
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on 25 November 2007
This is truly an amazing book. How is this man so little known? How ironic it is that this edition is published as one of the "Science Fiction Masterworks"; it is no more science-fiction than the Bible, or Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It is the profoundest book I have read this year and probably for several years.
"Star Maker" is nothing less than an attempt to unite science and religion in a common philosophy. It is categorised as a novel, which says more about the frustrations of those who love and need categories than it does about this book. It is not a novel: it is a work of great imagination, a courageous attempt at an almost incredible task - to try to describe "God". It is also very uncompromising and will leave many readers uncomfortable and perhaps even angry. But at the same time its vision is so beautiful, and so clearly touches on the incomprehensible truth of reality, that you can't help feeling grateful, humbled, and shattered at the same time.
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