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Monday, 29 September 2014

Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon, Reviewed.

Is this the precursor of much of today’s science fiction? The themes, ideas, stories he covers in this long work are multitude. I’ve read developments of these ideas in so many other works. First published in 1937, it is definitely a work of its time. The style, a narrative without dialogue, is dated and I suspect many new readers would find it difficult. But it is well worth the effort of reading the whole work.

The voyage, unexplained in terms of the ‘how?’, is more concerned with the ‘why?’ and deals with this question very well. Multiple imagined worlds are brought alive on the page, alien life is explored and many diverse creatures described.

The author examines the big themes: war, man’s self-destructive nature, religion, relationships, the natural world, and many more. He looks at potential mental development and attempts to get inside the minds of creatures with greater experience, higher intelligence, different moral stances than our own. There is an undercurrent of analogy to the world in which the book was written; a reflection of the concerns and worries engendered by the burgeoning aggression that would ultimately be World War II.

This is a massive work of intellect and imagination. Yes, there are limitations on the science posed by the lack of knowledge at the time of its writing, but there are also surprising references to ideas we still hold dear.

Those who enjoy science fiction for its ability to examine serious themes, to go beyond the guns and rockets and lasers of the gamers and star warriors, will find a lot to enjoy within these pages. Those who thrive on battling superships and military space academicians will be less excited. But this is a work that may well have been seminal for writers who followed. Within its pages are the seeds of many later stories by other writers, and I wonder how many of those seeds began to grow in the fertile brains of developing talent as they read this book.


I enjoyed it and happily recommend it to those who enjoy science fiction with something to say beyond the obvious.
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