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Star Maker (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 11 Nov 1999
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Brian Aldiss calls this 1937 SF classic "the most wonderful novel I have ever read", and its Millennium Masterworks reissue adds admiring remarks by Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur C Clarke, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf among others. Olaf Stapledon is better known for Last and First Men (1930), a sweeping history of the future whose early chapters are now embarrassing--but Star Maker leaps straight into a unfurling vision of infinity.
Looking at the starry night from an English hillside, the unnamed narrator is snatched from his earthly body and flung through space at impossible acceleration, soon outstripping light. He visits other stars, sees other worlds and alien races, a gallery of SF marvels in documentary rather than story form. (Some of this now seems over-familiar, however fresh and new in 1937: the book drags a little here.) Fellow disembodied intelligences from the galactic community join our hero, sensing something beyond mere matter and energy:
The felt presence of the Star Maker remained unintelligible, even though it increasingly illuminated the cosmos, like the splendour of the unseen sun at dawn.
But the godlike Star Maker is not exactly God, as we see when the scope expands beyond one mere universe to show an endless cycle of creations, many of them being crude and "immature" products of this experimenter's hand. Further "mature" creations follow, foreshadowing the Ultimate Cosmos whose crystalline perfection is not comforting but terrifying. Star Maker's final unsparing evocation of the deep chill of infinity has even been compared to Dante. --David Langford
"A buried treasure of 20th century literature reemerges in this splendid and practical edition. McCarthy's revealing introduction and notes display the genius of Star Maker to a new century." -- Robert Crossley, author of Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the FutureSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
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.
"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.
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.
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.