Sunday, July 10, 2016
Review of The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley
Post-human before it was a thing, The Ophiuchi Hotline must certainly be considered proto-cyberpunk. There are aliens and space travel which limit the full taxonomy, but highly+advanced plastic surgery, genderless humans, free sexuality, cybertech, dubious techno-commercial interests—all combine to give the novel something of the flavor of Schismatrix meets Neuromancer, even as the alien takeover wrangles the plot.
But for as standard as many of the ideas now seem to be, few if any books have attempted such a conclusion. Without spoiling matters, The Ophiuchi Hotline draws its strands of story into a braid upon the conclusion that induces a sense of wonder in perhaps the most literal sense. No book can please everybody (though Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken comes damn close), and how Varley chooses to end The Ophiuchi Hotline will not be to everyone’s liking. But for readers who value non-formula, Varley certainly gives them something to appreciate.
The Ophiuchi Hotline may be a novel that has been largely lost to time, but it is generally undeservingly so. Not a forgotten masterpiece, it remains, however, a work that readers of today’s post-human novelists (e.g. Charles Stross, Walter Jon Williams, and others) can enjoy. Something of Robert Silverberg thrown in to ground the story in humanity, even if just a touch, it’s a story worth the time, if not for ending alone.
Posted by Jesse at 12:46 PM