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The Golden Globe
John Varley
Ace Books, 448 pages

The Golden Globe
John Varley
John Varley grew up in Texas but now lives lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and family. He won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for his novella "The Persistence of Vision," and the Hugo for "The Pusher." He has more Hugo and Nebula nominations than anyone but Robert Silverberg.

ISFDB Bibliography
John Varley Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

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John Varley's new novel is a picaresque tale in the finest tradition of that venerable art form. You have your basic scoundrel, Sparky Valentine, former child star of the 23rd century, who runs around the solar system providing basic services to humanity:

Putting on Punch and Judy shows.
Hoofing it in cruise line musicals.
Playing male and female roles in Shakespeare revivals.
And, oh yeah, running short cons on the unsuspecting.

Where it gets very interesting is when he cons an rich and unsuspecting woman who happens to have connections with the Charonese mafia. The Charonese mafia are a group of fellows, much like the Sicilian mafia of old Earth, who started their brotherhood on the remote moon of Pluto, which was once a penitentiary world, and is now a receptacle of sorts for human scum. Think Australia, as seen through the eyes of the 19th Century English, but in a vacuum. These wise guys are just as likely to shove you out an airlock as bust your kneecaps.

There's also a very cute Bichon Freise pooch named Toby, and a charming retinue of hobos and other drifters. And lots of juicy details about what life in the solar system might be like in the 23rd century.

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to this sort of tale. The advantages are obvious, in the hands of John Varley: slick prose, great pacing, and well-drawn characters.

There's only one disadvantage, really, but it can be deadly: you can only take so much roguishness before the entire thing becomes irritating. About a quarter of the way through, the newness of it all--the quirkiness, the backhanded humour, and the tough talk--was barely enough to keep me turning the pages. I was becoming a Reader in Search of a Meaningful Plot Event. And just about every time I started to get annoyed, Varley would send me something meaningful.

If you like picaresque stories, and have patience with the form's episodic nature and constant scamping, then I think you'll enjoy this work. It is a fine addition to the picaresque sub-genre.

The rest of you have been forewarned.

Copyright © 1998 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer for Cisco Systems, Inc. If you send him e-mail, he'll argue with you for free.


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