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The Persistence of Vision by John Varley

The Persistence of Vision (original 1978; edition 1978)

by John Varley

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593616,560 (4.15)10
Title:The Persistence of Vision
Authors:John Varley
Info:Dial Press (1978), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Almost 5 Stars, Read
Tags:Short Story Collection SF, Science Fiction, Own, Short Story Collection, Fiction, Male Author, Read, Almost 5 Stars

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The Persistence of Vision by John Varley (Author) (1978)



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short stories
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
In a post-apocalyptic near-future, a middle-aged drifter roams from commune to commune in the Southwest United States. Each of these groups has its own culture and he stays a while at each, doing whatever he needs (e.g., going nude, praying, chanting “Hare Krishna”) to fit in while he’s there. This works well for him — he stays fed and sheltered and moves on when he’s ready for a change of scenery.

But when he comes across a walled-in settlement in the middle of Native American land, he finds that he can never fit in because the group who lives there are the adult descendents of women who contracted rubella while pregnant. All of these adults are both deaf and blind, though their children are not. At first the drifter is fascinated by the ways they’ve developed to get around their “handicap,” but soon he learns that, in their community, he’s the one with the disability because he will never be able to understand their language — a language that is a lot deeper than mere spoken words could ever be.

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about perception, I was fascinated by a culture that can’t see or hear, and I enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt with how the group overcame their obstacles. Also, the idea that communication without the masks of fake facial expressions and deceptive body language could be more informative than the “normal” methods is appealing. We get a lot of information about someone’s internal state through visual and auditory cues and it’s hard to imagine that tactile methods could compensate for missing this input, but John Varley is suggesting that people who are born blind and deaf might develop these sorts of paranormal abilities when normal sensory input is lacking. It is true that some people who are blind or deaf have sensory abilities that seeing and hearing people don’t have, or at least never realized they have (e.g., blindsight, echolocation). Perhaps Varley’s idea isn’t so far-fetched.

The Persistence of Vision, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, will make you think. It will make you consider what kinds of wonderful abilities might be unmasked if you lost some of your “normal” abilities. Would it be worth the price?

I listened to Peter Ganim narrate the audio version produced by Audible Frontiers. It was a great production and I’m pleased to see so many Hugo- and Nebula-awarded stories in their catalog. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
These stories are from the early Varley, circa the Gaia series ([b:Titan|49838|Titan (Gaea, #1)|John Varley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1309283641s/49838.jpg|2777504] being one of them), way before the more recent Thunder and Mars books, with the author at the peak of his creative genius (IMHO). I like his work primarily for the way he paints striking and memorable images: the explorers trapped in the bowl, the blind-deaf-mutes having a meal. The title story is worth the effort if you only have time or patience to read just one. But then, like cinnamon licorice sticks, you won't be able to stop at just one. ( )
  ricaustria | Apr 5, 2013 |
The majority of the short stories in this book are set in a future where man has spread out into the solar system with the help of advanced technology, which allows humans to enhance themselves to exist even in the hostile heat and atmospheric pressure of Venus. Just about anything about the the human body can be changed quickly and easily by the medicos. A change of sex can be done on a whim and is hardly even worth commenting on in Varley's future. Although their world is so different from our own, the protagonists are still very much human and easy to identify with. The title story which ends the book, is very different, the thought-provokingstory of a man's stay in a community of deaf-blind people and their new methods of communication.

I especially liked "The Phantom of Kansas"and "The Black Hole Passes". The only story that I have definitely read before is "In the Bowl", although I may have read "The Phantom of Kansas" before, as it seemed vaguely familiar at times.

Update on re-reading this book nine years later in 2012. This time my favourites were "Air Raid" and "The Black Hole Passes". ( )
  isabelx | Jan 1, 2011 |
prepared to be carried away as Varley's science fiction short stories quickly whirl you into magical future which reveal the answer to some is Now! and in others it is the words of Buckaroo Banzai 'the future isn't what it used to be..." ( )
  revslick | Jan 1, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Varley, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aichele, RoseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Budrys, AlgisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kindt, AnnemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McNeely, HollyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santos, DomingoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westermayr, TonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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UK edition has title: In the Hall of the Martian Kings
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