Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Steel Beach cover Steel Beach (1992)

1993 Hugo Award nominee
An Eight Worlds universe novel

Cover art by Todd Cameron Hamilton
Ace/Putnam hardback edition - 479 pages

From the inside cover:
       Steel Beach is the story of Luna, the colony set up by Earth on the Moon, which became the primary home of the human race when an alien attack destroyed the mother planet. At the center is Hildy Johnson, top reporter for one of Luna's tabloid newspapers, who has always had mixed feelings about the virtues of Luna. In many ways this artificial world is paradise: science had cured physical ailments from cancer to bad breath, people live practically forever, and the Central Computer system keeps the climate comfortable and the air clean. If a man gets tired of his gender he can easily become a woman. And vice versa.
       Beneath all this perfection, however, trouble is brewing. Hildy can't understand why the ease and pleasure of life make him feel suicidal. And from the Central Computer he learns that others share his feelings. In fact, the Computer confesses, it's been feeling depressed lately itself....
       The situation is headed for a blow-up, with Hildy at its center. But out of catastrophe will come the chance to rethink the meaning of paradise, and in particular the understanding that one man's paradise is another man's stifling prison...

Read for group discussion in September 1997

Steel Beach is set in John Varley's Eight Worlds universe, like many of his short stories. It has numerous Heinlein-esque themes.
How we each rated this book
Dan 10 Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri - Barb 10
Aaron 7 Cynthia 7
Lars 7 Jackie 7

Our book group has also read the following books by John Varley:
-- Titan   in November 2001

John Varley (1947-    ) is a US writer of science fiction short stories and novels.  His first SF publication was in 1974 in F&SF with "Picnic on Nearside".  He was one of the most significant new writers of 1970s.  His works are imaginative and complex.

Awards (All for short fiction):
1978 Nebula Award for novella "The Persistence of Vision"
1979 Hugo Award for novella "The Persistence of Vision"
1982 Hugo Award for best short story for "The Pusher"
1985 Nebula Award for best novella for "Press Enter[]"
1985 Hugo Award for best novella for "Press Enter[]"
1999 Prometheus Award for The Golden Globe
2004 Endeavour Award for Red Thunder

John Varley's short fiction has been collected in The Persistence of Vision (1978) titled in the UK In the Hall of the Martian Kings (1978); The Barbie Murders (1980) alternate title Picnic on Nearside (1984); Blue Champagne (1986); and The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction (2004).  Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo (1989) is a chapbook with a story from Blue Champagne.

His first novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) is set 500 years in the future when humans are bioengineered and cloned, and social and sexual customs have changed.

The Gaean series Titan (1979), Wizard (1980), and Demon (1984) begins with a mission to Saturn but turns almost into a fantasy when the female protagonists find a pocket universe with unusual species and intelligences on Titan.

Millennium (1982), which was made into a movie in 1979 staring Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd, and Daniel J. Travanti, is a time travel thriller in which accident victims are abducted moments before their deaths and taken to the future.  It was based on the story "Air Raid" which Varley published as Herb Boehm.

Steel Beach (1992), which was a Hugo award nominee, takes place in Varley's eight worlds universe, the setting of many of his stories.  The Golden Globe (1998), set in the same universe, won the 1999 Prometheus Award for the best libertarian science fiction novel of the year.

Red Thunder (2003) is about an unconventional mission to Mars.  It's a tribute to Heinlein's juveniles of the 1950's.  Other books in this series are Red Lightning (2006) and Rolling Thunder (2008).

Mammoth (2005) is a book involving time travel.

Varley edited with Ricia Mainhardt the anthology Superheroes (1995), which contains short stories about all-new cartoon heroes.

Our book club's page for Titan by John Varley
John Varley - Wikipedia
The SF Site Review of The Golden Globe
The John Varley Site
Xero magazine: Interview with John Varley
The Official Website of John Varley
Locus Online: John Varley interview excerpts (2004)

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This page was last updated October 27, 2008