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John Varley

As an adolescent, I loved Edgar Rice Burroughs; as a teen, I was obsessed with Robert A. Heinlein. I've gone through other faves since, but currently, my favorite science fiction author is John Varley. And I'm happy to report that he is still writing.

There are a number of reasons why I love Varley's works. He explores themes I find particularly interesting: time travel, immortality, cloning, terraforming, the end of the world, identity and gender, and the most outrageous possibilities of medical science. Varley satirizes our obsession with entertainment and info-tainment-type news. I love strong female characters, and many of Varley's leads are strong, interesting women, and not in the "I'm actually a male pretending to be a woman" sort of way. I also love his humor.

With Varley, I find that I'm more interested in the journey than the destination. His prose is consistently absorbing, amusing, and easy to read; I'm never bored re-reading because there is always so much going on. It's not that the endings aren't strong, because they are; it's that his strength as a writer is in the universe he creates. It's real to me, and relatable, which I suppose is why I tend to prefer what's called "hard sci-fi".

Many of Varley's works, including his short stories, feel like they belong in the same universe, even when they don't. I imagine I can see the core of the "Eight Worlds" stories in Varley's latest series, the "Thunder and Lightning" books. It's like he inevitably finds the human story going in a specific direction, and it's far from a perfect future. Fortunately, it's also not a raging, illogical dystopia.

I have reviewed all of Varley's full-length novels. I'm not planning to review his collections of short stories, although I'll say that my favorite is The Persistence of Vision. It may be the best collection of science fiction short stories I've ever read. And believe me, I've read a lot of them.

John Varley has his own web site.

Eight Worlds
The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977)
Steel Beach (1992)
The Golden Globe (1998)
Irontown Blues (2018)

Gaean Trilogy
Titan (1979)
Wizard (1980)
Demon (1984)

Millennium (1983)
Mammoth (2005)
Slow Apocalypse (2012)

Thunder and Lightning Tetralogy
Red Thunder (2003)
Red Lightning (2006)
Rolling Thunder (2008)
Dark Lightning (2014)

Short Story Collections (I don't plan to review these)
The Persistence of Vision (1977)
Picnic on the Nearside (The Barbie Murders) (1980)
Blue Champagne (1986)
The John Varley Reader (2004)
Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories (2013)