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Steel Beach by John Varley

Steel Beach (edition 1993)

by John Varley

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980148,777 (3.92)31
Title:Steel Beach
Authors:John Varley
Info:Ace (1993), Mass Market Paperback, 566 pages
Collections:Your library

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Steel Beach by John Varley


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Just when I thought I'd fangirled Mr. Varley as much as I could, I read this. OMG! Gender, children, our ever-increasing dependence on technology, computer science, depression, the importance of journalism, and lots of little adventures spicing up the great big plot. It's thick, it's thoughtful, and you should read it.
( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
So good. I'll probably re-read it again in 10 years. ( )
  PaulDW | Oct 14, 2014 |
We all deal with the CC a thousand times a day, but almost all of that is with one of its sub-programs, on a completely impersonal level. But apart from the routine transactions of living, it also generates a distinct personality for every citizen of Luna, and is always there ready to offer advice, counsel, or a shoulder to cry on. When I was young I spoke to the CC extensively. He is every child's ideal imaginary playmate. But as we grow older and make more real, less tractable and entirely more willful and frustrating relationships, contacts with the CC tend to fall off. With adolescence and the discovery that, in spite of their shortcomings, other people have a lot more to offer than the CC ever will, we cut our ties even further until the CC is just a very intelligent, unobtrusive servant, there to ease us through the practical difficulties of life.
But the CC had now intruded, twice. I found myself wondering, as I seldom had in the past, what was on its mind.

My fifth re-read of the month was originally published in 1992, and it must have been a fairly new book when I borrowed it from the library. I have remembered it fondly (if a little vaguely) ever since and it was top of my wish list for years. "Steel Beach" was the first of John Varley's books that I read, and over the following years I read more stories set in the Eight Worlds. This year I have been reading them all in order and now I just have "The Golden Globe" left to read.

To be truthful, all I remembered from the first time I read it was the world-building and how much I liked it, along with the protagonist's name, his job and that fact that he had chats with the Central Computer. A few times during this re-read, I suddenly remembered what was going to happen next, but I had basically forgotten everything, including the suicide epidemic that kick-starts the plot and the dramatic events at the end of the book. It's probably not such a surprise that I had forgotten the meanderings of the plot, as in this book ideas are much more important than the plot. How would humans cope with two or three hundred years of life, no real need to work (or even to learn to read and write) and an apparently easy life? Would they still enjoy life, or gradually start to find it not worth living? How would they react to the Central Computer's control of their entire environment, and its use of nanotechnology to prevent them from getting cancer or even from having to brush their teeth? Would it make life sweeter if they knew tab they weren't safe at all? if they learnt just how many times Luna had veered perilously close to disaster and was narrowly saved by the Central Computer?

I had already read that the descriptions of the cities of Luna in the Anna-Louise Bach stories set before the Invasion doesn't match that in the stories that are set later, and there was an author's afterword in Steel Beach saying that there were also inconsistencies in the chronology compared to the earlier stories, which he didn't feel like going back and sorting out. Luckily I didn't feel the need to nitpick as I was reading it, even though I did notice some discrepancies.

I thought I was through… but what about the toes? Bare feet are quite practical in Luna, and had come back into vogue, so people will be looking at your toes. The current rage was to eliminate them entirely as an evolutionary atavism; Bobbie spent some time trying to sell me on Sockfeet, which look just like they sound. I guess I'm just a toe person. Or if you listen to Bobbie, a Cro-Magnon. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Jul 30, 2012 |
The reoccurring theme of this future world, where Earthlings now inhabit the moon and a few outer planets, is suicide. I didn't much care for that. Hildy, the main character, jumped around from one job to another, and one gender to another, never happy with any of it. Add an AI who sees to the every day operations of everything Luna, who is trying to find the root cause of the increased number of suicide attempts on the moon and decides it's him. Toss in a homage to Robert Heinlein and another sub-plot develops with all thing Heinlein named. I'm glad I read it. I don't think I would recommend it to any but the avid Si Fi/Heinlein reader. ( )
  AdorableArlene | Jan 6, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Varleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hamilton, Todd CameronCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to the First-Saturday-at-Herb's Literary, Debating, and Pyrotechnics Gang. You know who you are. Thanks for everything, my friends.
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"In five years the penis will be obsolete," said the salesman.
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