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“This stellar collection by John Varley contains eleven provocative, utterly distinctive stories and novellas. None of them are currently available in any other book. Some have been unavailable in any form for twenty-five years or more. The result is a publishing event that no admirer of Varley—or of first-rate imaginative fiction—can afford to miss.
“The bulk of these stories comprise what the author calls a “Grand Tour of the Solar System,” moving from one thoroughly imagined setting to another with deceptive ease. “The Funhouse Effect” is a tale of mystery, intrigue, and illusion that takes place on a mechanized comet moving toward the sun’s corona. “Retrograde Summer” is an account of gender reversals and family secrets set against the radically unstable backdrop of Mercury. “Bagatelle” pits a recurring Varley character—Police Chief Anna-Louise Bach—against a living bomb that threatens to devastate Luna’s Dresden City. Other stories range from Venus (“In the Bowl”) to an underground “disneyland” on Pluto (“Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe) to the unexplored reaches of deep space (“The Black Hole Passes”). The collection ends with two very different offerings that are nonetheless vintage Varley. “The Unprocessed Word” is a whimsical reflection on one writer’s relationship with a ubiquitous, constantly evolving technology, while “The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)” is a brief, absolutely chilling meditation on the consequences of nuclear proliferation.
“Whatever the tone, style, or subject matter, Varley remains in complete control of this impressively varied material. Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories provides intellectual stimulation and pure entertainment in equal measure, and bears the unmistakable hallmark of a master storyteller on every page.”
Eleven long-unavailable science fiction stories showcase Varley’s signature themes of freedom and free love in this literary tour of the odder byways of the solar system. Varley (Slow Apocalypse) loves exotic settings: talking black holes in “Lollipop and the Tar Baby,” a hollowed-out comet turned into a space ship in “The Funhouse Effect,” an orbiting resort shaped like a champagne glass in “Blue Champagne,” a tropical “Disneyland” on Pluto in the title story. The stories themselves are solidly stuck in the 1970s; the twist of “The Funhouse Effect” won’t startle modern readers, and the characters killed in “The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)” are mere sketches. The female protagonists of “Bagatelle” and “Equinoctial” are steered through their stories by men, while the sexual power games and clone-family issues in several other stories are no longer edgy. The collection serves best as a time capsule of Varley’s less-known work and silver-age science fiction. (May)
- The Funhouse Effect
- Retrograde Summer
- In the Bowl
- Blue Champagne
- Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe
- Lollipop and the Tar Baby
- The Black Hole Passes
- The Unprocessed Word
- The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)