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Odd John

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  752 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Odd John is the story of a mutated superman - a young man who must accept that he is different, and decide what to do with his gifts.
Paperback, 209 pages
Published by Gollancz (first published 1935)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,095)
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Manny
Oct 02, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Not your run-of-the-mill superhero story, which may have had something to do with the fact that Stapledon wasn't a typical person to be writing a superhero story in the first place; he was a Professor of Philosophy, and apparently a friend of both Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill. It has always surprised me that this book isn't better known.

Most superhero scenarios, starting with Superman, take it for granted that the guy will spend most of his time acting as a kind of elite first responder
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nks
Source of my current favorite quote:

"A nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners."

Very much on point lately.

Interesting book. The strangest thing about it being that I couldn't figure out why I wanted to keep reading it. It is a mostly philosophical tome about an evolved human (homo superior) who is kind of an ass. Yet it was a very smooth read, in that vein of "an intellectual white man tells the world about a thing he observed" toned stories. And shit, Stapledon so called WWII
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Gary
Mar 11, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
another one that I read many times when I was young - fond, vague impressions linger

I had never heard of Olaf Stapledon before and I never heard of him again until I bought "The Great Courses: How Science Fiction Works," and there he was again. I had remembered his name and this one book, Odd John, for decades. Now I want to read it again, just to see why I kept some part of it with me for all that time.

On a related subject, I do believe there must be others like me who read many favorite books
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Rebecca Jones
Apr 07, 2013 Rebecca Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this first in grade school. While no genius is struck a chord with my lonely childhood and made me think.

I also started writing a book with this tale as a role model for it. Such has this book impacted my life.

I cannot recall how many times I read this book. Despite all my moves I still have that very book, though now tattered.

It has been years since I have done more then pick up the book from my shelf and read it. I almost fear it would no longer be relevant or deep to me. Or maybe th
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Steve Joyce
Apr 02, 2016 Steve Joyce rated it it was amazing
Odd John is a proverbial feast for thought and is filled with many an intelligent nuance. In exploring what it is to be super-human, Stapledon holds a mirror up to what it is to be just merely human.

Odd John has several shocking moments and is clearly aimed at an adult audience. I haven't researched the topic but I can't help but think that certain passages caused it to be received as controversial (for the time) or even caused it to be censured or downright banned in some quarters.

In writing ab
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Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
Olaf Stapledon's Odd John is an odd book. It is science fiction in its loftiest form - a novel of ideas.

Stapledon uses this tale of a youth who is an example of a new superior species emerging from conventional humanity as a way to examine the human condition from the outside. John's account to the narrator of the failings of our species and why we are, he feels, doomed to self-destruction really cut to the quick. And the fact that John operates according to moral principles so very different fr
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Mark
Jun 24, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Here is, reissued, one of those SF tales that was of a type so common around the 1940’s and 50’s: except that this one set the mould in 1935. Though short, it challenges the reader, and leaves you much to think about afterwards.

Odd John is a tale of a ‘superman’: John Wainwright, an Englishman who claims to be the forerunner of a new species, homo superior. Told by his friend and butler-type, nicknamed Fido, it is the tale of how John grew up, became an adult and ultimately the consequences of h
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Einar Nielsen
Jan 20, 2016 Einar Nielsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard that this was a very difficult book so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a nice read. Sure there where some parts that were a bit preachy, but they also had some valid points. What I found fascinating was discovering how this book is a precursor to a lot of other fiction. This has influenced X-men, Stranger in a Strange Land and tons of other works.

As far as I know this is the first instance of Homo Superior in fiction. We are introduced to Odd John who despite his strang
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Raj
Feb 21, 2010 Raj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This book concerns the brief flourishing of a utopian society founded by a small group of Übermensch, the chief of whom is John Wainwright, the 'odd John' of the title. The book is framed as a biography of John by a devoted friend.

Stapledon spends the first half using the adolescent John to examine modern society and, as in other of his works, finds us wanting. He then describes John's efforts to find others like him and the group founding a small colony in the south Pacific, before its inevitab
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fromcouchtomoon
Jun 14, 2015 fromcouchtomoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stapledon was a class above his 1930's SF peers, skipping the stuffy space opera for what is essentially a thinkpiece on philosophy, agnosticism, gender and racial equality, and sexual liberation, and just an overall criticism of humanity itself.
Joel Ayala Alicea
An extraordinary novel about the greatness of the mentally gifted and the perils they endure in a world filled with prejudice and intolerance. This is the second novel of this author that I've read and I have felt satisfied so far by his writings. Whereas the reading of Star Maker is often hard and slow this one is so easily read that is like a bliss to go through. It is a staple in Stapledon the philosophy theme and this is no exception. Since I personally hate spoilers I won't reveal anything ...more
Erik
Feb 13, 2015 Erik rated it really liked it
Amazing book, the granddaddy of so many sf novels on homo superior. The ESP, psychokinetic and cosmic religious elements seem dated and a little loopy. Wouldn't super humanity have overcome religion altogether?
Chris
Nov 01, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
This really is a very strange and unique novel, and it is shocking to think that it came out in 1935, far ahead of its time and probably before any audience would be able to appreciate it. It must have been met with muted appreciation and some degree of confusion as to its nature and aim. Just look at the cover and imagine it being in shops in 1935 in England: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odd_John

Futuristic, dystopian, and unsettling, 'Odd John' should be considered in the same strange class
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Tara
Mar 22, 2015 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was… interesting. It’s more like traditional science fiction which is more about ideas than necessarily about action. It explores the idea of superhumans (supernormals or homo superior in the book.) It raised a lot of questions of morals and your obligations toward people who are of a lower… not order… value? than you are. I guess. Odd John himself compared it to homo sapiens and primates. That comparison automatically set me on the defensive when I was reading. And some of the moral c ...more
Ombledroom
May 26, 2016 Ombledroom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners, a sort of super-hate-club.
Soledad P
Feb 07, 2015 Soledad P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tenía curiosidad por leer este libro. Leerlo fue como leer al Übermensch de Nietzsche novelado con una mezcla con la isla Friendship.

No es malo, pero se hace difícil empatizar con el protagonista hasta casi el final. Valoro sobre todo la crítica a casi toda la cultura moderna, desde la religión hasta la ciencia y los sistemas económicos, pasando por la psiquiatría y astronomía. Críticas que perfectamente se pueden aplicar a nuestro tiempos (el libro fue escrito en 1935). Fue una interesante lect
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J.L. Dobias
May 11, 2015 J.L. Dobias rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: SFF classic lovers
Shelves: book-shelf-08
Odd John by Olaf Stapledon

This is my third offering in super human or Ubermensch. These three seem to point to a theme that’s a keystones to later works. The first was The Hampdenshire Wonder by J.D. Beresford and this is actually the second chronologically and the third was Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human. All three stick with me as three that I encountered in my early reading history. If I were to add more to this I'd add Mary Shelly's Frankenstein which might at least account for a trend
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Peter O'Brien
May 09, 2015 Peter O'Brien rated it really liked it
Shelves: olaf-stapledon
"For you, Communism is the goal, but for us it is the beginning. For you the group is sacred, but for us it is only the pattern made up of individuals. Though we are Communists, we have reached beyond Communism to a new individualism. Our Communism is individualistic" - page 199.

As with Stapledon's two seminal works Starmaker and First and Last Men , Odd John is a book that is full of complex ideas well ahead of its original publication and, in many ways, still well in advance of the contempo
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Dave
Oct 25, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Olaf Stapledon’s “Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest”, published in 1935, is his third novel and it takes the idea of the evolution of homo sapiens into a new race, an idea which he touched on briefly at the end of his second novel “Last Men in London”, and this time he devotes the entire work into looking at the interaction between homo sapiens and the new race homo superior. The idea of Supermen was not new, Philip Wylie’s “Gladiator” from 1930 is one example which predates “Odd John” ...more
Gregg Wingo
Dec 19, 2014 Gregg Wingo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1935, Olaf Stapleton published "Odd John", a doomed wish-fulfillment novel that acts as a Utopian criticism of a world balanced between the “communist” Soviet Union and the established fascism of Italy and Germany. His Superhuman character provides a critique of his “current” state of modernism in three points:

1)The human mind has an innate propensity for hate.
2)The regime of capitalist accumulation forces the ruling class to fear the proletariat and to apply authoritarian measures of control
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Charles Harrison
Mar 09, 2015 Charles Harrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Odd sums this work up pretty well. The biographical style is essential when describing a person with super human awareness as it brings it down to our level. Whilst some of the middle chapters are a bit on the heavy side as philosophy and sociology are explored in great depth it is worth persevering. The sense of foreboding set off in the first chapter keeps you gripped throughout. As an aside this book also has some wonderful predictions about the near future, given it was published in 1935 and ...more
Camump45
May 12, 2015 Camump45 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It needs a lot more fish if you ask me. description
Josie
I gave up on this book really wishing I had the patience to finish it. The character is fascinating but the writing is so wooden I couldn't get into it. The "author" is theoretically writing a biography but it comes off more as a character study in a scientific paper. Pages and pages of stolid description occasionally broken up with a paragraph or page of story illustrating the description. Would that it had been the reverse! Because the character and the tales he tells about John are interestin ...more
Kevin Driskill
This was a fun read. The most intriguing thing I found was the way the author let you write part of the story. There were places where the character of John would do some incredible feat of innovation or meet some very influential person and Stapledon would refer to the thing or person but state that the specific name or product had to necessarily go unnamed. The narrator was a friend of John and in the story protected the family and business by agreeing to withhold certain names and items from ...more
Shnfara
Aug 23, 2014 Shnfara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Borderline racist, Odd John reads like a list of generally unimaginative descriptions of the maturation of a hypothetical super-human. The book mostly relies on the trick of portraying all humanity as either so simple or stupid that a child with the mind of an adult dictator is meant to seem more than human. Not sure what the overall point of the novel was, possibly it is that communism is basically faulted but as close as humans can get to the utopia which only post-human individualists with te ...more
Maggie
Jan 04, 2012 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book was a bit of a slog for me, while young John was busy being strange and unsympathetic and our narrator thinks we'd be interested to listen to John's many diatribes about the flaws of normal people. During this part I said the book was "interesting," but I'm not sure that I would have stuck with it if it hadn't been a recommendation from someone whose recommendations I have reason to listen to. That all changed in the second half, where John himself grew more likable ( ...more
Hazel
Nov 04, 2009 Hazel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hazel by: Manny Rayner
Shelves: science-fiction
My copy predates Lester Del Ray's Garland Library, but I'm not able to correct this on the Goodreads database.

This is old-fashioned science fiction, reportedly one of the earliest of the stories about homo superior. The style didn't grab me and I lost patience when Stapledon introduced a female specimen whose intellectual superiority had led her to become a prostitute. Then there was the black specimen who was something of a mystic. Of course you can't separate a writer from his culture, and th
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Marsha Altman
A nice gem from the 1930's, though the text has aged somewhat. It's the story of John, a strange "supernormal" boy born for no particular reason in an English household, as told by his biographer after his death (sorry to spoil, but the book does the same very early on). The early and final chapters are by far the best material. The middle gets heavily weighed down by John's philosophical meanderings as he studies the human race from the POV of a boy many times smarter than any of them, and some ...more
Simon
Jan 22, 2015 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-and-fantasy
Not the first story I've read about the sudden appearance of a mutant super being, but easily the best. The early stages describe John's psychological development with great imagination and insight, and convincingly portray someone of abnormal intelligence trying to find his place in the world.
The ending is frustrating, but then that's the point, I guess.
It's also worth noting that Stapledon fits an epic story into 190 pages without sacrificing depth, detail or characterisation. Modern genre nov
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Curtis Schofield
Sep 14, 2010 Curtis Schofield rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagination
Amazing - simply fantastical and also lovely in that it lacks the ugly forcefulness of other 'superhuman' style novels - it is not an arrogant account , nor is it materialistic in it's depiction of the superiour race of human - instead it is gentle and childlike - with maturity and grace.

All and all quite a incredible book and delightful even more so that it be writ in 1935 - a fact that I am incredulous to and meet check o'r and o'r again.

The writing itself is plain and easily digested with cla
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Excerpted from wikipedia:
William Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and author of several influential works of science fiction.

Stapledon's writings directly influenced Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, Stanisław Lem, C. S. Lewis and John Maynard Smith and indirectly influenced many others, contributing many ideas to the world of science fiction.
More about Olaf Stapledon...

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“Philosophy is an amazing tissue of really fine thinking and incredible, puerile mistakes. It's like one of those rubber 'bones' they give dogs to chew, damned good for the mind's teeth, but as food - no bloody good at all.” 24 likes
“My dear, it is a great strength to have faced the worst and to have *felt* it a feature of beauty. Nothing ever after can shake one.” 18 likes
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