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Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
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Star Maker (1937)

by Olaf Stapledon

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8552110,470 (3.94)44
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English (18)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This is the book your university creative writing teacher warned you against. And that is not a good thing. Ideas are rich, but the writing is burdensome. I plowed through it just to see why CS Lewis thought the ending was so heretical. I don't think I got that either. ( )
  M.Campanella | Dec 24, 2013 |
Science fiction should have plenty of the wonder factor and I found Star Maker to be almost mind expanding. Stapledon is describing the birth and death of the whole cosmos, no less and is doing it from a first person perspective. I read the first half of this book late at night and later had the most weird dreams, so weird in fact that I thought I had better finish the thing the next morning. These days, dreams are the nearest I get to mind expansion

Stapledon's book has long been regarded as a science fiction classic, receiving plenty of critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937 and today it features in the science fiction 'masterwork' series. That is quite an achievement for a book that hardly has a storyline: it is more of a framework for Stapledon to hang his theories about how galaxies were formed, how life emerged and how it eventually died, or was destroyed because of the machinations of the Star Maker. There is some philosophy some science, some world building and plenty of ideas about the life forms that pulse through the cosmos.

The speaker of the book is a man very much like Stapledon himself who walks up onto a hillside above the suburb where he lives, reflecting on the world below him (he can make out his bungalow where his wife has switched on the lights as night comes down). He gazes up at the stars and finds himself lost in the looking, so much so that he has an out of body experience and sees himself as a point of light rushing up towards the stars. This is the start of a most incredible journey as he vaguely wonders if he has died, but his experiences of travelling through space push those thoughts to the background. After a very long journey where he appears to have travelled way beyond the solar system to one of the arms of the milky way, winking in and out of time itself, he eventually arrives on a planet a little like earth which he calls the other earth. There is humanoid life on the planet and the speaker finds he is able to lodge himself within the mind of one of the aliens. He lives within the mind of Bvalltu becoming a sort of surrogate partner until he is also ready to join with the speaker to explore the universe and they both set off visiting other planets, collecting more minds along the way until they form a community of explorers/watchers. Time has no meaning for them as they watch various life forms struggle to what the speaker calls "The Awakened State". Very few civilizations achieve the utopia of this world community in which every person is a valued member, but it is only when they get to this stage that they can advance further into a more spiritual existence.

The watchers discover that they can travel backwards and forwards through time and in a search for the meaning of life they are able to watch the cosmos grow from its first inception to maturity and then slowly die as it's stars burn out. They discover that the very stars are a life force and eventually they have a dream or vision of the Star Maker itself. The Speaker is able to report on the various ages of the galaxy from the time of the isolated worlds to the time when interstellar travel is possible to a time when empires are formed as the inhabitants struggle to obtain a galactic community/mentality before moving further towards a cosmic mentality. Everything must die in the end and the futility of existence for those who seek answers to their questions becomes an insistent theme.

In the preface to his book Stapledon sets out his own state of mind when he was writing just before the second world war:

At a moment when Europe is in danger of a catastrophe worse than that of 1914 a book like this may be condemned as a detraction from the desperately urgent defence of civilization against modern barbarianism

The fight against barbarianism is a constant theme of the book and it is no surprise that homo sapiens are not one of the species that make it even as far as a world community. There are however more enlightened civilizations that do survive and Stapledon indulges in describing some of the most important civilizations that become leading players in the galactic community. These are the passages in the book that I enjoyed the most when the author can allow his fertile imagination to run ahead. He is also effective in describing the advanced civilizations battling against a decaying cosmos and he does a pretty good job with the creation of the galaxies. And what of the Star Maker itself? all to possible perhaps.

The science in the book holds up pretty well and Stapledon manages to pitch it at a level where many people will be able to grasp the concepts. In a book without a real story line there are some longuers and it can be a little repetitive. Stapledon writes well enough, but he is no poet and although he manages to induce a sense of wonder his writing at times is less than magical, but this does not stop it becoming a wonderful exercise in fiction writing. A bit of a milestone in the science fiction genre and with ideas enough to satisfy any literary criteria. A Five star book ( )
5 vote baswood | Sep 4, 2013 |
Un libro estremamente affascinante, ricco di inventiva e meraviglia, ma a tratti difficile da seguire, specialmente alla fine.
Meravigliosa cronaca dell'universo del suo presente, futuro e passato, fino alla fine e oltre, a altri universi. E' fantascienza? In parte, ma è più la visione del cosmo di Stapledon messa per iscritto, un saggio filosofico mascherato da racconto.
Questo lo rende anche un romanzo sui generis, poco mostrato e molto raccontato per cui se siete fan dello "show don't tell" potete tenervene alla larga.

Non avrete bisogno di "sospendere la vostra incredulità", anzi il pericolo maggiore è che chiudendo questo libro vi troviate a chiedere: e se fosse davvero così? A quel punto la vostra vita perderà molta della sua importanza per diventare un minuscolo granello di un minuscolo cosmo nelle mani dello Star Maker... ( )
  Tonari | May 19, 2013 |
I had heard of Olaf Stapledon before, I even have another book by him, but I had never read anything by him before. Last weekend I found an SF Masterworks edition of Star Maker. I always buy SF Masterworks books (if I don't already have them, of course), because I am sure they must be pretty good or influential to be in that series. And as before, I wasn't disappointed.
This is not your average science fiction novel. I am not even sure it falls in that genre, it could also be philosophical, almost religious literature. The story is told by a man, who, in the late 1930s, sits outside his house in England, and then starts on a (mental) journey through time and space. He travels (no ship, inventions, crew or anything, just his mind) through the galaxy and along the way he grows. He lives a while in the head of an alien (Other Human), and then travels mentally further along. Along his journey he grows and is joined by other mental travelers from other planets and periods. Together they (as one unit) discover how aliens/creatures/humans evolve and survive. They discover the same types of crises in all societies, and when a society can grow beyond it, the species can evolve. The main movement is towards mental peace, togetherness and unity. First between countries, then planets, galaxies, the universe. The last stage is towards the Star Maker, the unknown creator.
Like I said, the book is pretty philosophical, and the language used takes some getting used to. It is pretty clear which way the story is going, what Stapledon is thinking, but that is ok. Realizing this book was written in 1937, just before World War II makes some references to Earth even more real. This is simply one amazing book, an absolute must read for so many reasons. Four out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | May 9, 2012 |
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One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Nebula Maker is basically a first draft for Star Maker and is not the same work.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140035419, Paperback)

This 1937 successor to Last and First Men offers another entrancing speculative history of the future. Cited as a key influence by science-fiction masters such as Doris Lessing, its bold exploration of the cosmos ventures into intelligent star clusters and mingles among alien races for a memorable vision of infinity.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

One moment a man sits on a suburban hill, gazing curiously at the stars. The next, he is whirling through the firmament, and perhaps the most remarkable of all science fiction journeys has begun.

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