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The John Varley Reader

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  470 ratings  ·  46 reviews
From the moment John Varley burst onto the scene in 1974, his short fiction was like nothing anyone else was writing. His stories won every award the science fiction field had to offer, many times over. His first collection, The Persistence of Vision, published in 1978, was the most important collection of the decade, and changed what fans would come to expect from science ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Ace (first published September 2004)
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4.36  · 
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 ·  470 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
As you might have gathered from the title, this is a collection of stories from author John Varley. I've only read a little of Varley, but I've always been a little intrigued, and a little intimidated by the prospect of reading his novels, the latter largely because they're mostly set in one universe and I'm not sure the best starting point. But I've heard interesting things, and have vaguely positive recollections of the few stories I remember reading in short story collections. So when I saw a ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Gives you more of an overall sense than his novels of the future world Varley envisions. And though I've read a lot of books, there's actually very few author visions that I would like to inhabit, but I would like to live in Varley's vision of the future. Crack open this book and bring along your popcorn for a truly imaginative and visceral ride.
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
the 5 stars is mainly for "Press Enter []", "Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo" and "The Persistence of Vision". some of the others are OK, the rest is filler...
Nicholas Armstrong
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
I love Varley; I can't not love his stuff. Some of his stories are more... manicured than others, but overall, I love it. Unfortunately, I'm picky as hell with short stories. For some reason, I feel that short stories should have this point, or, maybe not a point per se, but a goal. I need to see a finish line, something that short story has been building up to each time. In essence, a short story isn't a novel; it is a different creature. It's purpose is separate. Where a novel can exist purely ...more
David Roy
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
John Varley is a master at driving the reader into a fearful full fetal curled up ball in the corner. His stories stick around for a long time. The ingredients in his stories include science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In particular, the horror is the stickiest ingredient and, I would add, probably the most dominant of the three most of the time. When I fly and connections fall apart, I think of "The Flying Dutchman," and shudder. Is this what is happening to me? Will I ever get home? It goes ...more
Ketan Shah
A very worthwhile collection of great Sci fi.John Varly has been writing for a while,and it shows in the assuredness of these stories."Overdrawn at The Memory Bank" has a very Philip K Dick feel to it. Other stories like Air Raid and THe Barbie Murders are entirely Varley's own style,and Persistence of Vision is an amazing story that puts you in the heart of a deaf mute community.Any one who watched 50 First Dates will find the plot of Just Another Perfect Day familiar.(Varley's short story was ...more
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shortstories, scifi, 2016
Varley is an amazing SciFi writer and I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. It was at the tail end of my "to-read" list, a gem waiting to be uncovered.
Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
An excellent collection of short stories. Most were enjoyable and yet made you think at the same time.
Augusto Delgado
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-sf
The greatest hits conundrum. It happened before, it will inevitably happen ever after.

You lot remember the urge of getting "Positively 4th Street" in spite of already having the rest of the songs in that bard's compilation. Well, this Reader has the same feel, sort of. There are huge chunks of previous albums er... books, mostly from "The Persistence of Vision" and "Blue Champagne."

But, then again, there are about half a dozen B-sides and new stories. They are not all as great as the ones in th
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When it comes to the social side of world-building in Science Fiction, slathered with good science, beautifully messed-up situations, and a really vast setting of our Solar-System nestled neatly in Varley's collective imagination, Varley is a master.

I've read and raved about some authors for their sheer imagination, intense focus on the fringes of technology, and sometimes about the nitty-gritty of what it means to be human, or more specifically, gendered, but Varley takes gender to new heights.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
5 stories in my bridged edition : Air Raid 5/5, Pusher 4/5, Barbie Murders 4/5, Persistance of Vision 4,5/5 & Press Enter 3,5/5 ( outdated - however tolerate this "problem", still not comforted of view of AI attacking people through computer, fine vision - bad realization , doesnt works for me enough , technically & mentally ) ...more
Earl Truss
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read Persistence of Vision some time ago but did not really like it at the time. I don't remember why. Decided to try again with this collection. Glad I did. This time, the stories were great. I did feel as though there was a lot of repetition and I stopped reading and read some other books for a while then started again. This helped with the remaining stories.
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous stories

I am not normally a short story advocate, but wow. Some great introductory stories to Varley’s magnificent Eight World universe, some incredible award winning stand alone adventures and many thought provoking moments. Highly recommend
Art Smith
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some of the best fantasy/science fiction short stories out there. Varley is a master!
Zach Glickson
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Arguably the greatest collection of Sci-Fi short stories. The persistence of vision is one of the weirdest short stories you'll ever read, ever. And it's absolutely brilliant in everyway possible. Note to readers: this is designed for adults to read. There's a lot of sex talk and can have stories involving murders. Definitely 18+ reads but absolutely beyond worth the time to read.
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Overall this was as good any collection I've ever read. The first three stories are good enough to keep you reading further and then they really get going. To save time I'm only going to comment (and briefly at that) on the couple of stories that weren't up to the general level of quality as the rest of the collection and the ones I thought were outstanding.


"Beatnik Bayou" - The only story in the collection that lost me.

"Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo" - I've enjoyed all the Anna-Lou
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Since John Varley has long hovered around the apex of my most beloved sf writers ever, I was thrilled to find this collection. I've read and re-read all of these before, except, obviously, the three written for this book. I lent this to a friend to read and had to contemplate how it would seem to a Varley newbie, which lead me to dissatisfaction over the order in which the stories were arranged here. Naturally, I re-numbered them and issued strict instructions to the friend. But it was a good ex ...more
Steven Cole
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is (as it's titled) a collection of Varley's short stories, collected throughout his career (up until about 2004, at any rate). Since he got to go back and pick the good ones (without limiting himself to the stuff that hadn't been previously anthologized), the choices are really quite good.

Some of the stories I've read recently; others I read twenty years ago. It's interesting how my reaction to them has changed. (My brain copes a lot better with testosterone now, so my 21-year-old focus on
Kelley Ross
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I hesitate on whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars. I personally feel that it was more of a 4, but then I have to consider the political boundaries during the time it was written. Then, these stories must have been shocking and perhaps even offensive to the vast majority of people reading them. I admire Varley's desire to make an impact on the world and its views through writing... so he gets 5 stars.

My favorite part about this collection of stories was actually the introductions to them! I r
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had not actually heard of Varley before my housemate lent me this book, with a couple of specific story recommendations. I read those stories and then promptly devoured the rest of the book.

Varley can write a damn good story. He is also a good world-builder who thinks about how his characters fit into his worlds. In particular, many of his stories show a good awareness of issues to do with disability, gender (including trans*-ness, to at least some extent) and sexuality, and his treatment of s
Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2009, sf-f
This took forever for me to get through. Varley's style is a bit plodding and he has a bit of a tin ear for language and dialog -- and there are points when his preoccupation with naked pre-adolescents becomes a bit predictable (such is the disadvantage of having a collection of an author's work; you can see many of their tendencies more clearly). The ideas of the stories were interesting, but felt a bit dated (especially the ideas around sexuality). "Press ENTER", however, was as creepy as when ...more
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This collects all of Varley’s short fiction to date. What really makes the book shine, though, are the introductions to the stories. Eminently readable little anectodes from the author’s interesting life. Even with only the introductions and no stories, this would have been a great (albeit rather short) book. The stories are wide ranging from drama to action, with Varley’s sublime characterization always front and center. A great book.
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Read half of this before I had to return it to the library, tho' I plan to maybe get it out again. Hugely creative short stories, hugely offensive to women, or at best tediously sex-obsessed. All the stories I read had awesome premises, and all invariably degenerated into talk about the need for free love communes or, in one of his most award-winning stories, sex with a 13 year old girl. You could tell he'd cut his teeth on Heinlein. Sigh sigh sigh.
Riju Ganguly
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is, frankly speaking, one of the most underrated jewels of science fiction collection that I have ever read. The sheer variety of the stories is amazing, and the grittiness of the characters are more reminiscent of techno-thrillers than we usually associate with the soft & moody narratives of contemporary science fiction. Highly recommended.
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love science fiction, so I don't know how I hadn't heard of this author until last year (he's won several Hugo and Nebula awards, and he's been writing since the 70s). I LOVED this. The stories are so creative and there wasn't a single one I was disappointed in (though obviously some were better than others).
Peter Tillman
Has many of his classic shorts, and not much dross. Varley was one of SF's master storytellers, in his prime. Good place for newcomers to try him out -- but hard to believe they want $21 for the ebook! Try your library....
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Varley's imagination is a fun & wondrous thing. These stories are both thought-provoking and extremely entertaining, and the universe he builds is solid. The feeling is that of an intelligent ex-hippie's take on the galaxy, and I enjoy it immensely.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was brilliant. Rarely do I read books that suprise me with original thinking and clever, original writing that makes me just want to laugh or put the book down and say "oh my gosh" and wish I had been the one to write it.
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-reads
An opportunity to re-read "Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo" made this an outstanding book. The fact that Varley offers some biography and a host of other short stories ranging from merely good to awesome was just icing on the cake.
Stephanie Manson
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-sf
There were a few stories that seemed kind of dated, but overall I enjoyed this book, especially the ones following his character Anna Louise Bach. The Bellman, which was first published a few years ago in Asimov's, was by far my favorite.
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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.

“When I started writing I wanted the best tools. I skipped right over chisels on rocks, stylus on wet clay plates, quills and fountain pens, even mechanical pencils, and went straight to one of the first popular spin-offs of the aerospace program: the ballpoint pen. They were developed for comber navigators in the war because fountain pens would squirt all over your leather bomber jacket at altitude. (I have a cherished example of the next generation ballpoint, a pressurized Space Pen cleverly designed to work in weightlessness, given to me by Spider Robinson. At least, I cherish it when I can find it. It is also cleverly designed to seek out the lowest point of your desk, roll off, then find the lowest point on the floor, under a heavy piece of furniture. That's because it is cylindrical and lacks a pocket clip to keep it from rolling. In space, I presume it would float out of your pocket and find a forgotten corner of your spacecraft to hide in. NASA spent $3 million developing it. Good job, guys. I'm sure it's around here somewhere.)” 12 likes
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