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The Golden Globe by John Varley
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The Golden Globe (1998)

by John Varley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Metal Set (2), Eight Worlds (6)

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607623,897 (3.77)1 / 19

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This book took some time to grow on me; I spent the first quarter waiting for some plot to develop; then once I got to Act II, I was plunged into Kenneth Valentine's back story and things took a different turn as we meet Valentine's father, a domineering and abusive personality. It changes the nature of the book, but we still veer between horror and humour as we return to Varley's wisecracking narrator.

Valentine roams the Solar System, doing whatever he must to survive and evade the law for a serious crime. He switches fairly effortlessly from actor to con man and back again, aided by a eidetic knowledge of the works of Shakespeare, a highly competant piece of luggage that seems very much like Pratchett's Luggage given a technological makeover, and a genetically enhanced dog.

We get more detail of Varley's Eight Worlds, mainly delivered in extended asides; it must be a good ten or more years since I read his previuous outing in this milieu, 'Steel Beach', but I quickly settled back into it (though it wasn't until I read other reviews that I realised that these two novels share a character).

One thing did stick out for me, however. For a human future set some five hundred years hence, for Kenneth Valentine drama mainly finished at the end of the Twentieth Century. I know that in this series, humanity has been exiled from Earth and scattered across the rest of the Solar System; and so there has been a reduction in the overall population, the survivors will have had other things to worry about other than writing plays, and the nostalgia industry, once the human populations had become settled and (sort of) secure, would become a major enterprise that would drive a lot of the entertainment and leisure industries. But experience also tells us that creatives will be creative no matter what the circumstances - even the Nazi concentration camps produced music, art and writing despite their objective of exploitation and extermination - so the comparative lack of new plays is noticeable as Valentine roams the Solar System. Building an artificial repertoire is a difficult trick to pull off convincingly, but its absence is equally noticeable. Are we supposed to think that Mankind (and I use that word very intentionally) has been so busy surviving and building new lives on a new frontier that people haven't had time to write and create new art? Yet the settled societies of Luna and some of the other more established Eight Worlds have had time to create amusement parks and an extensive video industry with all its trappings, so why is there very little sign of new art? Is it just a foible of Kenneth Valentine that nearly all his dramatic touchstones date from roughly the first half of the Twentieth Century?

We also get continual deii ex machina: the Luggage - sorry, the Pantechnicon - an AI-run spaceship, Valentine's dog and indeed a late revelation about Valentine himself all emerge to surprise the reader, though the last revelation introduces a topic that I don't recollect from other stories Varley set in the Eight Worlds, and so which rather feels dumped into the narrative.

Others have commented on Varley's indebtedness to Heinlein; certainly, I visualised the action of the book taking place in a Heinleinesque setting, and the rough-and-ready nature of the boondocks of the Solar Systerm suggests worlds full of competant men, all pioneers who need an itinerant thespian to bring Art into their otherwise blighted and empty lives. Later, Heinlein is directly referenced; and the Lunar Central Computer is a thinly-disguised Mycroft Holmes from 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.

In other ways, this is a twenty-year-old novel and it shows. Attitudes are firmly stuck in the 1990s or earlier; there is a distinct lack of personal technology. This is noticeable but not intrusive. The richly-detailed story and the larger-than-life protagonist make up for this, but by the end there is a sense of all loose ends neatly tied up; perhaps too neatly. ( )
  RobertDay | Nov 22, 2018 |
I keep reading Varley because I liked his earlier work so much. This one is my least favorite thus far. I'd have liked Valentine a lot better if his tone (and penchant for quoting theater and film) weren't exactly Hildy's in Steel Beach--put a paragraph of each side by side and you probably won't be able to differentiate between them. The editing seemed poor--to make one small but important point, "prop" guns that fire would clearly have been forbidden on Luna in Steel Beach, but elicit no outcry in this volume. In some ways, the very end of the book recycles the end of Steel Beach. I assume Varley's next will be Heinleiners in Space. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
By sitting on the couch I think he meant to signal he was still with me in spirit, but by taking the distant ground he was letting me know that, if she gets violent again, Sparky, you're on your own. Toby was an artist, not a pugilist. If I'd wanted a bodyguard, I'd have bought a Rottweiler.

Considering how much I liked the other novels and short stories in the EightWorlds series, I was surprised to find that I wasn't enjoying the last book in the series very much. Although the story did drag a bit at times, the main reason is because I just didn't like the main characters, Sparky Valentine and (in the flashbacks) his father John B. Valentine. Ex-child star Sparky is a card-sharp, a con-man and a thief as well as a stage magician, Punch and Judy man and actor, and spends most of the story on the run, with his faithful and intelligent bichon frise Toby. ( )
  isabelx | Nov 4, 2012 |
This is my favourite science fiction book by my favourite science fiction author. Set in the same universe as Steel Beach (a modified version of Varley’s “Eight Worlds” universe), The Golden Globe features one of the most memorable narrators in science fiction: Kenneth “Sparky” Valentine, a washed-up child television star who now wanders the Solar System as an itinerant thespian, not to mention conman, thief and general miscreant. Sparky’s wisecracking narratorial voice is easily the most amusing and readable of any I’ve ever come across. He regularly goes off on tangents and anecdotes, often in the employ of worldbuilding, which never fail to entertain and fit in seamlessly with the narrative; something that was often beyond Steel Beach’s Hildy Johnson.

While Steel Beach focused on Luna, Sparky’s story takes him from the ramshackle boondock orbitals beyond Pluto, across the system to Luna; a Grand Tour of Varley’s world, and one with a much tighter plot than the loose, rambling story of Steel Beach. Sparky is bound for Luna to play his dream role of King Lear in an upcoming stage production; in pursuit is a near unkillable member of the Charonese Mafia, pursuing him for one of his many crimes. This is nothing new for Sparky, who has spent his adult life on the run for a much more serious crime – which the blurb gives away, so don’t read it.

Like Steel Beach, The Golden Globe retains a certain cartoony, satirical aspect reminiscent of Terry Pratchett; it feels somehow less mature and serious than other science fiction novels, or indeed than Varley’s early novels. It is, however, much more readable, and I feel that this tone is a deliberate result of the specific zeitgeist of the Eight Worlds: namely, they don’t have one. Their culture is entirely derived from Earth, and they are overcome with obsession about the vibrant history of the world they lost: an artificial ocean on Pluto that recreates famous historical scenes from the Pacific, movie studios on Luna modelled after the famous studios of Hollywood’s golden era, Shakespearian productions, fashions and styles taken from centuries past… while the Invaders are barely referenced in these two books, it’s clear that humanity is still mourning for Earth, and that sooner or later a second confrontation will occur.

I dearly hope this happens in Irontown Blues, the as yet unwritten book which Varley has said will feature a police detective and round out the “Metals Trilogy.” This is the book I long for more than any other. Until then, however, The Golden Globe is the most enjoyable and readable science fiction romp I’ve ever read, and Sparky Valentine one of the greatest characters. ( )
2 vote edgeworth | Feb 2, 2011 |
The distance between successful actor and successful con artist is small indeed, and The Golden Globe has a lot of fun exploring the line that separates the two. The main character, Sparky Valentine, is that guy, and Varley has him pulling rabbits out of his hat the whole story long. He's out among the outer planets running from killers, pulling cons, acting in whatever manner he can figure out, loving his dog, and spending time with the lovely ladies he meets along the way.

This book has the strong characterization of most first-person novels, though he slips into an interesting third-person perspective when doing flashbacks, and occasionally breaks the fourth wall when it makes sense. It's got Varley's gizmos and dreams of future tech (including a fascinating sub-dermal face changing thing --- great for actors). Ultimately, a book of this kind lives or dies based on how well the main character appeals to the reader; in this case, I thought he was great. I really liked this book. ( )
  NakedSteve | Nov 28, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Varleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ducak, DaniioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fusari. ErikaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I once played Romeo and Juliet as a one-man show," I said. "Doubling with Mercutio won't be a problem."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441006434, Mass Market Paperback)

Sparky Valentine is a former child star turned down-on-his-luck thespian who's just reached the grand old age of 100. Not that you could tell by looking at the old ham, who for some reason never seems to age--or stay out of trouble. Sparky's in the midst of a whirlwind theatrical tour designed to bring a bit of culture to the frozen desolation of the outer solar system when bad luck strikes in the form of a gumshoe hot on his tail. Sparky decides to skip the outer burgs for the more hospitable environs of Pluto, but things only get worse when he runs afoul of the notoriously unforgiving Charonese Mafia. As he's making his getaway, he learns something astonishing. The famous director Kaspara Polichinelli of Luna is planning a performance of King Lear, and he's short a lead to take on the title role. Sparky wires Polichinelli that he's interested, and Polichinelli tells him the part is his. Now all Sparky has to do is find a way to scrape together enough cash to get to Luna before the play starts while avoiding a seemingly unstoppable (and unkillable) Charonese hitman. --Craig E. Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

All the universe is a stage, and Sparky Valentine is its itinerant thespian. He makes his way from planet to planet as part of a motley theater troupe, bringing Shakespeare - a version of it anyway - to the outer reaches of earth's solar system. Here Sparky plies his trade, transforming himself from young to old, fat to thin, man to woman, by altering magnetic implants beneath his skin. Indispensable hardware for a career actor and an interstellar con man wanted for murder - for while Sparky Valentine may have a song on his heart, he also has a price on his head. But his galactic roamings are bringing him closer to home, closer to justice - and closer to the truth of his strange and prolonged existence...… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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