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Steel Beach

(Eight Worlds #2)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,746 ratings  ·  138 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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Manuel Antão
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1998
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Paradigm Shifting Technology: “Steel Beach” by John Varley

(original review, 1998)

I liked “Steel Beach” by John Varley much more than I expected, as the AI is much more insidious that we usually see in most contemporary SF. Most of the others assume that an AI would go rogue, but "Steel Beach" assumes the opposite, that the AI would work exactly as designed. In “Steel Beach”, the residents of Lunar all live under the benevolent auspices
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a delightful surprise! Varley is one hell of an idea-prolific SF author who never rests on any old plotline but continually stretches his wings over new shores.

So far, I've read five of his novels and I'm frankly rather blown away each time by each in turn. Why? Because he's more interested in telling great character stories with depth and emotional importance than he is about amazing worldbuilding.

Huh. So what? A lot of modern SF does that all the time.

Ah, but a lot of modern SF doesn't go
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sex changes, immortality, and suicidal boredom – O my!

A ubiquitous theme in Varley’s cannon is that if a computer can become sentient then it can just as well develop human neuroses and quirky hang-ups. Singing “Bicycle Built for Two” and asking Hal to open the pod door are coming down the pike (and WAY COOL Varley even references this 2001 scene).

Set on his Eight Worlds universe, it is nonetheless a stand-alone and something of a rogue even for that world building. Humanity has been booted from
Henry Avila
May 27, 2011 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
David Nichols
Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, reviewed
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
Jul 24, 2007 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.
Neil Fein
Feb 19, 2008 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
Sep 11, 2013 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,
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 4/5

Consider these three factors if you're weighing whether or not to read Steel Beach.

1) My edition ends with an author's note in which he explains how this is related to his Eight Worlds future history series:
It does share background, characters, and technology with earlier stories of mine, which is part of the future history tradition. What it doesn't share is a chronology. The reason for this is simple: the thought of going back, rereadin
Fernando Porres
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
La bajona.
No sé si leerlo estando bajito de ánimo es lo mejor para uno mismo pero tal vez si que sea como más se aprecia \_(ツ)_/
Feb 27, 2014 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
Apr 28, 2016 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
Mar 27, 2011 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
Nov 14, 2010 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
Dec 07, 2009 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.
a hooded figure from your friendly neighbourhood dog park
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carmelo Medina
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El anterior libro de la salga acaba en un punto álgido de comienzo de una nueva aventura que habían descubierto tras investigar. Supuse erróneamente que la segunda novela sería la continuación y aquí viene cuando Varley me golpea con una novela tan llena de tramas interesantes que, al igual que pasa con la novela de "la caza de Nimroad" te mete cada 3 páginas en un universo que da para hacer una sola novela con las ideas que se exponen ahí. Una delicia ir descubriendo todos los ambientes de luna ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The strength of this book is in its characters and world-building, but the story isn't left entirely out of the picture. Varley takes a lot of the interesting stuff from The Ophiuchi Hotline and expands on it in prequel form. The Ophiuchi Hotline had enough cool ideas left almost unexplored or seen from only one perspective that what was left on the cutting room floor makes for an excellent story, and still there's enough left over that I'm hoping gets addressed in the The Golden Globe .

It is
Aug 10, 2014 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
Kaus Wei
Mar 14, 2012 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
Aug 25, 2011 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
Lois Tucker
Jun 02, 2012 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 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 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 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 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.
Juan Raffo
En una Luna poblada por la humanidad que fue expulsada de la Tierra en una invasión extraterrestre, vive Hildy, periodista de escándalos (en realidad es el único periodismo que existe) que goza de una situación económica holgada, una salud perfecta (ayudada por una nanotecnología y ciencia médica prácticamente mágica), una estabilidad social maravillosa y una completamente envidiable vida sexual. A pesar de esta vida paradisíaca Hildy cae en graves depresiones que lo hacen intentar suicidarse va ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Steel Beach is a sci-fi novel that explores the question of how humankind might evolve if, like a fish, it was cast up upon a beach, gasping for air. The beach in question is a human-made environment in space (on the moon, specifically) with no ability to return to the ocean that is earth.

Steel Beach follows Hildy, a tablet reporter, who covers events in the lunar colony as the human race approaches its 200 year anniversary of exile from Earth. This is a time when nanobots help keep the body fit
Feb 03, 2017 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.
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Read Irontown Blues first. It was ok so decided to try this. It sucks. More of a world building exercise combining a seried of vignettes. In adition, he hasn't seem to have grown out of the '60s-70s SF author's focus on sex. Irontown Blues has, so it seems he finally grew up. This one, though, very dull and vapid.
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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.

Other books in the series

Eight Worlds (4 books)
  • The Ophiuchi Hotline (Eight Worlds #1)
  • The Golden Globe (Eight Worlds #3)
  • Irontown Blues (Eight Worlds #4)
“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
“There is a certain concentrated, avid-for-blood look that appears on the faces of reporters on the trail of a very big story that you'd have to visit the big cat house at the zoo to see duplicated in its primal state. From the look on Brenda's face, if a tiger was standing between her and this story right now, the cat would soon have a tall-journalist-sized hole in him.” 0 likes
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