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Steel Beach (Eight Worlds #2)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  2,514 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
Fleeing Earth after an alien invasion, the human race stands on the threshold of evolution, like a fish cast on artificial shores. Their new home is Luna, a moon colony blessed with creature comforts, prolonged lifespans, digital memories, and instant sex changes. But the people of Luna are bored, restless, and suicidal -- and so is the computer that monitors their existen ...more
Paperback, 566 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Ace (first published 1992)
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Henry Avila
May 27, 2011 Henry Avila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes
Recommended to Henry by: nobody
The most painful opening sentence in a novel, in the history of literature(Well for half the human race).Great premise,humans living on the moon.The Lunarians,don't call them loonies,have an utopian society, where boredom is the major problem.Big Brother,(cancel that, this is the 23rd century) the Central Computer rules Luna.The inhabitants chief amusements are sex change operations and suicide. People have to do something! The main character in this novel is Hildy Johnson a reporter.He/She or a ...more
Neil Fein
Feb 19, 2008 Neil Fein rated it it was amazing
When the terribly, terribly fashionable decide the old genitals are getting to be rather a bore, don't you know, they phone the chauffeur and have the old bones driven down to Change Alley.

John Varley, Steel Beach

Hildy Johnson, sometimes reporter for The News Nipple on Luna, may not be John Varley's first character to switch genders in the middle of a story, but he's certainly the most memorable. (In the film His Girl Friday, the character of Hildy was switched to a woman because the director lo
Jul 24, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Just when I thought I'd fangirled Mr. Varley as much as I could, I read this. OMG! Gender, children, our ever-increasing dependence on technology, computer science, depression, the importance of journalism, and lots of little adventures spicing up the great big plot. It's thick, it's thoughtful, and you should read it.
Feb 27, 2014 Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction, sff
After a decade-long hiatus, John Varley returned to his Eight Worlds series with Steel Beach, and the change is considerable. The original gist of the series is that humanity has been evicted from Earth by an unknown alien force dubbed "the Invaders," forced to eke out a living on the other eight worlds of the solar system (Pluto's recent demotion messes up the name a little, I guess). The only book from the original series I've read is The Ophiuchi Hotline, written in the 1970s, which revolved ...more
Mar 27, 2011 Andreas rated it it was amazing
This novel is set in Varley’s “Eight Worlds” Universe. It is the story, almost the chronicle, of Hildy Johnson, who also made an appearance in “The Golden Globe”. Steel Beach is the story of how Hildy Johnson didn’t commit suicide. That’s putting it crudely since the actual story is full of wonderful detail and nuance.

Hildy Johnson lives on Luna (the moon), a utopia with very long (perhaps even infinite) life, no real need to work and unprecedented personal freedom. Ironically, this personal fre
Sep 11, 2013 Tom rated it did not like it

Some interesting concepts here - humanity cast off the earth by an uncaring alien race, re-establishes itself on the moon and nearby planets. Medical technology has made every disease curable, every body part update-able and every injury fixable. Over-riding all that, a computer consciousnesses is involved in every aspect of life and thought. And what happens when that omnipotent, benevolent (?) AI starts getting depressed?

All huge concepts, any one of which could have made compelling SF,
Dec 07, 2009 Dynagrip rated it did not like it
just fucking terrible. if I hadn't been stuck in airports or on a plane I never would have continued reading this shit.

I knew it was going to be bad when there were mentions of Heinlein in there. Nothing good comes of science fiction authors referencing Heinlein because Heinlein sucked and was a pervert.

So yeah, this book was basically a shallow copy of the kind of stuff written by a dead would-be sex offender.
David Nichols
Apr 01, 2011 David Nichols rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, sci-fi
John Varley first appeared on the SF scene in 1975 with a flurry of powerful, creative, and evocative short stories that established him as a major talent. In 1977 he published his first novel, and shortly thereafter received his first Hugo and Nebula Awards for “The Persistence of Vision.” By 1980 Varley had become one of the most important writers in the field. Over the next four years he garnered another Nebula and two more Hugos, and wrote four more novels. Then, in 1985, he stopped publishi ...more
Apr 28, 2016 Ellen rated it did not like it
It is facile. It is conveniently heteronormative. And not much happens in it until about the 80% mark. The narrator, Hildy Johnson, is a reporter for a trash tabloid on the moon. He (and then later, she) is on a kind of quest to find out what could make life worth living, because she’s lived for 100 years and keeps trying to kill herself.

We meet her friends, we watch her hobbies, she tells us how she feels about things. She’s surprisingly sunny in a snappy way that readers familiar with the work
Aug 10, 2014 Tomislav rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This novel is set on the Moon, in a future where Earth has been invaded, and human life continues on the "Eight Worlds" of the solar system. There are some minor discrepancies regarding the timeline of this setting and that of other "Eight Worlds" novels such as The Ophiuchi Hotline - but John Varley states in the post-word that he really doesn't care about that. In this novel, set about two hundred years after the invasion, tabloid reporter Hildy Johnson wants to retire from the business, but b ...more
Aug 25, 2011 manuti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seguimos con Libros 2005-2006. 12 libros al año.
Playa de acero de John Varley es una novela extensa, en su edición de bolsillo tiene más de 700 páginas, y es probable que le sobren más de 200. Eso sí, es entretenida y se lee bien, el futuro que propone te hace pensar, sobre todo cuando el protagonista cambia de sexo durante la novela y hay que pasar de imaginárselo como un hombre a hacerlo como mujer, un ejercicio mental muy interesante. Como crítica, creo que le falta punch, le falta ese remate
Nov 14, 2010 M rated it it was amazing
Love it. Will say more later, but this is absolutely in the big-ideas-dropped-like-little-bombs tradition of Heinlein, but with a big sense of why you don't actually want to BE that guy on a political or a social or a personal level. Plus some really all-in gender switching by main characters including the viewpoint characters, with a sense that gender, sex, and orientation don't all line up the same way for different people, nor does CHANGING one of those things have a predictable effect across ...more
Lois Tucker
Jun 02, 2012 Lois Tucker rated it it was ok
John Varley is extraordinary at the short story. They are amazing, and hang together to form a sci fi world that's progressive and connected and egalitarian.... I loved them. Skip all of his novels.

You know what it is, his short stories (of the 70s) are so transgressive and visionary with their sexuality and feminism, while putting them as the norm in his sci fi work, that the books seem like he's had way too much therapy and thinking about those issues, instead of allowing himself to write abo
May 01, 2013 Noel rated it it was amazing
Steel Beach is flat-out one of my favorite Varley books. As a Heinlein fan, the Heinleiner stuff had me rolling around laughing, even though I am not entirely sure it was meant to be as funny as I found it.

But I love the issues and questions it explores, and I really like the way Varley handles some necessary narrative changes.

If you've never read it, do. It's quite good and the first line in the story cannot be beat.
Tasha Robinson
Aug 11, 2012 Tasha Robinson rated it it was amazing
One of the most ambitious science-fiction novels of the 1990s, a sprawling book that practically amounts to a trilogy tracking a single protagonist through a series of genders, identities, jobs, and attempts at finding meaning in life. I'm going to write a column entry for The Dissolve about this one soon.
Gadi Aleksandrowicz
Aug 27, 2015 Gadi Aleksandrowicz rated it it was amazing
זה היה כיף. מאוד כיף. המון רעיונות מד"ביים מוצלחים (אף אחד מהם לא יותר מדי מקורי או עמוק) שנזרקים לתוך קלחת ענקית ומתערבבים עוד ועוד, ופה ושם טוויסטים שלוקחים את הסיפור לכיוון שונה לגמרי ממה שחשבתי שהולכים אליו. מתישהו זה מתחיל להיות מתיש, ולקראת הסוף קורים כל מני דברים שמעצבנים אותי מרוב שהם מרגישים כמו גלישה לפתרונות קלים וקווי עלילה בנאליים מדי, אבל זה לא מספיק כדי לקלקל את כמה שזה היה כיף.
Nov 06, 2008 SOliver rated it liked it
Reading for a book club-- not my typical type of book. Futuristic Science fiction with underlying social opinions woven in. Pretty interesting and I'm shockingly loving it.
Feb 03, 2017 Dan rated it it was amazing
A great lead character with fun dialog and some good capers are enough to paper over some plotting issues and potential over-philosophizing. What started out seeming like a genre detective/reporter piece turned into a pretty deep character study.

Was really surprised how modern John "old white guy writing in the early 90's" Varley's views on gender and sexuality seemed.
Russ Crandall
May 17, 2017 Russ Crandall rated it liked it
This book turned on its heel so many times that in the end, I couldn't believe I had finished just one story. It was equal parts exhilarating, amusing, and exhausting - so much so that I'm not quite ready to jump into its sequel, but I hope to soon.
Dans ce très épais roman de John Varley, on suit les pas de Hildy Johnson, célèbre reporter d'un journal du futur. Peu à peu, on en profite pour découvrir cette Lune du futur, qu'on pourrait décrire assez facilement comme un futur possible de Révolte sur la Lune. Bien évidement, un futur assez différent (après tout le Heinlein et ce livre de Varley n'ont pas été écrits aux mêmes époques), mais quand même, un futur plausible.
Donc on suit ce reporter dans ses différents reportages. Ou plutôt, on é
Mar 15, 2017 Paul rated it really liked it
Read this a long time ago. But it has my favorite literary quote.
the definition of a liberal is a conservative who has just been arrested: the definition of a conservative is that of a liberal who has just been mugged.
Isabel (kittiwake)
Nov 26, 2011 Isabel (kittiwake) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
We all deal with the CC a thousand times a day, but almost all of that is with one of its sub-programs, on a completely impersonal level. But apart from the routine transactions of living, it also generates a distinct personality for every citizen of Luna, and is always there ready to offer advice, counsel, or a shoulder to cry on. When I was young I spoke to the CC extensively. He is every child's ideal imaginary playmate. But as we grow older and make more real, less tractable and entirely mor ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Jorozez rated it liked it
Playa de Acero ha sido la primera novela que he leído de John Varley y probablemente también será la única y la última. Tres en una, qué maravilla. La trilogía del ladrillo, la llamaré. Juro sobre la calavera de Isaac Asimov que intenté de veras que me gustase, intenté meterme en su mundo, aceptar sus reglas y dejarme llevar por su propuesta; pero no hubo manera, oigan.

La acción de Playa de Acero se sitúa ante un atractivo telón de fondo al que Varley no le presta mayor importancia: Los humanos
Ian Wood
Aug 30, 2014 Ian Wood rated it it was amazing
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's novels reviewed on the blog will generally have some images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a novel is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate a nove
Glen Engel-Cox
This has one of the most audacious beginning lines–an opening worthy of Harlan Ellison, famous for his eyeball-kicking first lines. “The penis will be obsolete within 5 years.” What a great line. Unfortunately, Steel Beach is downhill from there. It’s a slow downhill slope, and I kept expecting for the novel to start moving upward as I was reading through it, but a downer it is.

Somebody on rec.arts.sf.written had heard that this was a Robert A. Heinlein pastiche, but couldn’t reconcile that wi
Nov 21, 2011 Bookowl1000 rated it liked it
Opening line 'In five years, the penis will be obsolete". Not surprising in a world where sexual identity is so intermixed. The residents of the Moon can change sex as easily as if they were changing their clothes. They are bored by their existence; nano technology had expanded life spans to hundred of years, medical technology means that even the most horrific injuries can be fixed; and imagine living with the fact that invaders to your planet viewed you as being so significant that they did no ...more
Kaus Wei
Mar 14, 2012 Kaus Wei rated it it was ok
Book 3 in my re-reading odyssey.

I have been learning interesting things about memory during the initial phase of my re-reading efforts. Namely, things I was certain I really enjoyed (and would continue to like) all those years ago, do not pass muster anymore. It is rather disheartening, I puts a mild damper on continuing this little project.

To the story at hand...

The first third (pherhaps half) you can not get away from refrences to easy sex changes.
They are all the rage!
Everyone is getting th
Nicholas Armstrong
Aug 04, 2009 Nicholas Armstrong rated it liked it
Steel Beach is more of a book about a setting than it is a character. Normally I would hate this. I've read many books where the author is so caught up in the world he is making that he forgets to populate it with anything but stick people; Varley doesn't do that, not exactly.

Steel Beach is hundreds of pages of exposition on the world and how it runs interspersed with great characters. If the world wasn't so damn interesting then I would hate it. But this is actually a really believable and fas
Feb 24, 2015 Jeraviz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
No he conectado con la historia en ningún momento. La forma que tiene de plantearlo John Varley no es la adecuada ya que teniendo un marco tan atractivo como es el universo de Ocho Mundos plantea una historia en exceso larga y sin atractivo.
El protagonista es un reportero al que le encargan una serie de artículos con motivo del Bicentenario de la Invasión de la Tierra (para empezar, no entiendo la celebración de un acontecimiento tan nefasto) para que analice cómo era la vida del ser humano ant
Apr 27, 2015 Stan rated it liked it
This book by Varley -- who wrote one of my alltime favorite books, Millennium -- reminds me how, in life in general, the very things that are initially exciting and attractive can become tiresome and even aggravating. The beginning of the book hit me like an explosion of imaginative creativity, beside which the SF I have read recently paled in comparison. Seriously, there are enough ideas here for many authors to have turned into 5 or 6 books. For example, the reason humans have colonized the mo ...more
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Full name: John Herbert Varley.

John Varley was born in Austin, Texas. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, moved to Port Arthur in 1957, and graduated from Nederland High School. He went to Michigan State University.

He has written several novels and numerous short stories.He has received both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

More about John Varley...

Other Books in the Series

Eight Worlds (3 books)
  • The Ophiuchi Hotline
  • The Golden Globe (Eight Worlds)

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“The public had an endless appetite for stories like that. Subconsciously, I think they think the gods of luck will favor them when the tromp of doom starts to thump. As for survivor interviews, I find them very boring, but I'm apparently in the minority. At least half of them had this to say: "God was watching over me." Most of those people didn't even believe in a god. This is the deity-as-hit-man view of theology. What I always thought was, if God was looking out for you, he must have had a real hard-on for all those folks he belted into the etheric like so many rubbery javelins.” 10 likes
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