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Star Maker

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One moment a man sits on a suburban hill, gazing curiously at the stars. The next, he is whirling through the firmament, and perhaps the most remarkable of all science fiction journeys has begun.

Even Stapledon's other great work, LAST AND FIRST MEN, pales in ambition next to STAR MAKER, which presents nothing less than an entire imagined history of life in the universe, encompassing billions of years.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1937

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About the author

Olaf Stapledon

114 books464 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 723 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
May 1, 2018
Wow. Just wow. This novel disproves the general assumption that golden age SF is either hokey or unscientific.

In fact, it starts out like a strong hard-SF exploration novel touching on many possible alien races, mindsets, and physiologies, but it dives right down the rabbit hole into vast combined telepathic minds, galactic societies that actually are GALACTIC in scale, telepathic communication with multiple galaxies, and even to the discovery the rich stellar intelligence. That's right. Intelligent suns.

And an ever further exploration follows. This is a short novel that spans 5 billion years! It may be fast, glorious, imaginative, and deeply philosophical, but more than that, it's SUBVERSIVE.

Let me be clear on this. This novel is just as valid and fun today as it must have been back in 1937. More than that, it's probably something that would be appreciated more NOW than way back then.

Why? The Star Maker is the creation of God from Man. And even better, it even flies right into Manichean heresies! :) As HARD SF! It's fast as hell and fun as HELL! :)

Olaf Stapledon is easily one of the most brilliant and imaginative writers to have ever decided to use hard-SF as a furious vehicle of massive speculative philosophy in sociology, biology, physics, and cosmology. Was he a brilliant man? What do you think?

I can't get my jaw to stop dropping. I'm not even giving it special props for coming out of 1937. It's as good as any of the most vast-spanning hard-SF of today.

Come blow your mind! :)
Profile Image for Henk.
850 reviews
May 16, 2023
Already the author notes that immensity is not in itself a good thing. Enormous in ambition, but despite this surprisingly dull as a reading experience
I was the struggling embryo in the cosmical egg, and the yolk was already in decay.

Star Maker is definitely a grandiose work, but much more a documentary than a novel. Olaf Stapledon takes us on a journey from the solar system to a multiverse, through time and space. Despite brilliant concepts I found the overall execution of the book bland, even bordering on boring, while I do love SF in general. The approach feels alike to the documentary Alien Planet or The Future is Wild, spin-offs from Walking with Dinosaurs. Or like the space scenes in The Tree of Life movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WvuJ...

Some theories that were very novel at the time, an expanding universe, redshift from the speed of light, the value of earth seen from above Apollo mission style, come back prominently. Other conjectures have proven to be false, like planets being rare.
A prescient view of society falling into war and racial hatred again and again, and radio/virtual reality being used to control the populace, reminds the reader a bit of George Orwell.
However in essence many of the descriptions of alien societies are all quite reflective of the age the writer forms part of, with class warfare and exploitation recurring.

In some choices the author is very progressive: a symbiotic species of crab and ichthyosauruses, tree people being intelligent (hello there Ents!) and bird swarms that share a group mind and are bisexual.
The variety in exoplanets and imagined life on those is immense and puts anything Star Wars and Star Trek serve (another dessert planet, another icy moon) to shame.
There is an atomic engine to make planets move their orbit and nova weapons to wipe out star systems by inducing a supernova, things that come back much later in the work of Liu Cixin.
There are reservations for unenlightened species, governed by a league of super intelligent species that keep themselves far from galactic affairs. Artificial ring worlds on the brink of becoming Dyson spheres, organic spaceships, sentient stars with fire cloud salamanders as parasites, there is telepathy and mental development - the imagination of Stapledon is to be lauded. He is very far reaching, with his vision culminating in something similar to this movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6fcK...

Despite this scale and everything, intelligence and life is not insignificant in the view of Star Maker: A living man is worth more than a lifeless galaxy is a quote from the near the end of the book.
I see clear and obvious qualities but still I found this a really dry book and quite a hard reading experience overall - 2.5 stars rounded down.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
September 23, 2014
There's a theory that, no matter what the author appears to be writing about, really he's writing about himself. I find this theory quite appealing, and, even though I don't believe it 100%, I think it's often a good way to try and understand why you like a book.

Star Maker is an interesting test case. In an earlier book, Last and First Men, the author described the billion-year future history of the human race. Now, he has expanded the scope into a history of the entire universe. The human race just appears for an incidental sentence or two; we aren't important in this larger scheme of things.

The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)

Profile Image for H.M. Ada.
Author 1 book387 followers
September 26, 2015
"...to discover what part life and mind were actually playing among the stars."

I absolutely loved this. Plant people, composite minds, intelligent stars - and an exploration into some of life's biggest questions. This book is a history of the universe, told by an Englishman who mysteriously floats into the sky one night while contemplating its immensity. It does not contain many of the traditional elements of a novel. For example, there are not many "characters" in the traditional sense. But what it does have is a beautifully crafted series of interwoven alien histories, sci-fi-type hypotheses, and spiritual and philosophical musings.

One thing that surprised me is how specific some of the answers to these big questions get toward the end. It's not just some vague notion of the "unified spirit," it's much more detailed than that. I suspect that not all readers will like these answers, but I found them to be compelling and fascinating possibilities.

I also think this is a must read for any sci-fi fan. It was first published in 1937, at the dawn of sci-fi's Golden Age, making the ideas expressed all the more impressive and important. The final pages of the book tie its themes back to what was happening in Europe when it was written, which I found brilliant and poignant at the same time.

One technical note: apostrophes appear as "f"s and quotation marks appear as "g"s and "h"s in the Kindle version. This was not a problem for me once I got used to it, but if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to get the paperback.
Profile Image for George Kaslov.
99 reviews132 followers
June 21, 2018
This is not an easy read, but incredibly important one. The author takes us on a journey of ideas and concepts and in process completely alters our sense of scale, both spacial and temporal. Stapeldon was truly a pioneer of SF for bringing us truly big ideas.
Profile Image for Stuart.
718 reviews266 followers
December 5, 2015
Star Maker: The grandest vision of the universe
(Posted at Fantasy Literature)
Star Maker is perhaps the grandest and most awe-inspiring vision of the universe ever penned by a SF author, before the term even existed, in 1937 by the pioneering English writer Olaf Stapledon.

Although some readers might think that this book was only outstanding for its time, I would say it remains an amazing tour-de-force today, and has clearly inspired many of the genre’s most famous practitioners, including Arthur C. Clarke, with its fountain of ideas about galaxies, nebulae, cosmological minds, artificial habitats, super-heavy gravity environments, an infinite variety of alien species, and telepathic communications among stars.

This may be the only novel I’ve read that essentially has no individual characters. A nameless narrator sits on a hill contemplating the stars, when without warning his consciousness is transported into space, and he starts rushing towards the nearest stars. He discovers he can control his speed and direction, and proceeds to search for stars with intelligent life. Initially his search is fruitless, and the oppressive loneliness of space discourages him.

Eventually he discovers other intelligent minds, and joins in a collective mind with them. We are then treated to a mind-blowing series of encounters with ever greater and stranger life forms, as the scale expands by increasing series of magnitudes, until individual galaxies and universes have formed united spirits and proceed to seek the ultimate creator of the universe. To give you an idea of his writing style, below is a brief passage. The entire book is written like this, so it may not be your cup of tea if you like quirky characters, intricate plots, or pithy dialogue.

When at last our galaxy was able to make a full telepathic exploration of the cosmos of galaxies it discovered that the state of life in the cosmos was precarious. Very few of the galaxies were in their youth; most were already far past their prime. Throughout the cosmos the dead and lightless stars far outnumbered the living and luminous. In many galaxies the strife of stars and worlds had been even more disastrous than in our own. Peace had been secured only after both sides had degenerated past hope of recovery. In most of the younger galaxies, however, this strife had not yet appeared; and efforts were already being made by the most awakened galactic spirits to enlighten the ignorant stellar and planetary societies about one another before they should blunder into conflict.

The communal spirit of our galaxy now joined the little company of the most awakened beings of the cosmos, the scattered band of advanced galactic spirits, whose aim it was to create a real cosmical community, with a single mind, the communal spirit of its myriad and diverse worlds and individual intelligences. This it was hoped to acquire powers of insight and of creativity impossible on the merely galactic plane.

The book culminates with a brief but searing encounter with the omnipotent and yet imperfect Star Maker, who created all the universes in an endless series of efforts to improve upon the last, never satisfied, yet deriving ultimate meaning through those acts of creation. Olaf Stapledon’s descriptions of the Star Maker's efforts in the final part of the book are truly mind-bending, and bring to mind the latest ideas of quantum universes, infinite probabilities, the curvature of space-time, and the origins of the universe. It is a staggering achievement, still more incredible considering this was published in 1937.
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books323 followers
February 12, 2021
Stapledon manages to make it into the classical science fiction canon while dispensing with the traditional methods and inventing his own brand of speculative storytelling. This novel is pure speculation in the grandest sense. A consciousness, very like an astral projection of a human, explores outer space. Once intelligent life is encountered, it observes, then incorporates knowledge from that race and moves on to the next. I like the fact that even with god-like powers, the primary concern of the disembodied protagonist is not to annihilate or conquer the entire universe. It is rather an extrospective blossoming of conglomerate consciousnesses from diverse and disparate stock, amalgamating into a semi-universal consciousness. The resonating extrapolations increase without ceasing, making for a trippy, mind-boggling journey into the furthest reaches of non-human perspective and the endless expanse of uncharted space. Size and speed become increasingly less important as the author maneuvers through the narrative transformations.

If that sounds too abstract, you should read it and decide for yourself. If you're looking for characters, dialogue, setting, atmosphere, plot, or anything besides lyrical, pseudo-scientific exploration of the cosmos, look elsewhere. The pluses far outweigh the minuses in this case, and it is a very good complement to his First and Last Men. I've tried other Stapledon books, Sirius and Odd John, which are also good. However, Star Maker and First and Last Men are his standout works. If you are jonesing for a unique and philosophical s-f treat, strap in for this master class in pure s-f concept execution.
Profile Image for Helen (Helena/Nell).
136 reviews115 followers
January 1, 2013
This is a novel -- is it a novel? If it is a novel it has no plot and no developed characters. The time scale is so huge as to be unimaginable (Stapledon's imagination is also unimaginable). The narrator starts as 'I', then turns into 'we', sometimes 'human', then a cosmic consciousness; and at one point something like (but not exactly) a demi-god. Oh weird, this is so weird. This might be the weirdest book I have ever read.

How is it compelling with no plot? How can you care what happens next when the main character is no more than a point of view? How do you centre yourself in the book when it zooms from world to world, galaxy to galaxy, aeon to aeon? I don't know. But somehow you do.

The narrator does starts as a human being. I think the first sentence is completely wonderful: "One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill." On the hill, he looks at the stars and then suddenly he finds himself "soaring away from [his] native planet at incredible speed. . . I was not troubled by the absence of oxygen and atmospheric pressure. I experienced only an increasing exhilaration and a delightful effervescence of thought." And so it goes on, like an astonishing, amazing dream.

The narrator encounters many forms of life, many different kinds of intelligence. On some of these, he dwells for a paragraph or two in fabulous detail. For example, I loved this bit: "Many of these early universes were non-spatial, though none the less physical. And of these non-spatial universes not a few were of the 'musical' type in which space was strangely represented by a dimension corresponding to musical pitch, and capacious with myriads of tonal differences. The creatures appeared to one another as complex patterns and rhythms of tonal characters. They could move their tonal bodies in the dimension of pitch, and sometimes in other dimensions, humanly inconceivable. A creature's body was a more or less constant tonal pattern, with much the same degree of flexibility and minor changefulness as a human body. Also, it could traverse other living bodies in the pitch dimension much as wave-trains on a pond may cross one another." It's like David Attenborough on speed.

I said there was no normal plot to draw you through and connect things. There is, however, a question. The narrator starts by staring at the stars, into which he is drawn in a kind of dream or vision. I think it is a vision. I totally believed in it. Not believed that it was true - I don't mean that - believed that the vision was a genuine experience. I still feel quite sure Olaf Stapledon did all this in his own head, was somehow drawn into it inexorably and as a visionary, not as an ordinary writer. Oh -- I forgot the question. It is 'Who, or what, is the Star Marker?' The narrator goes in search of God.

I loved the complex experience of finding the Star Maker. Yes, he does find him. But no spoilers here! He finds both an answer and no answer, the only kind of resolution I could be happy with. This is too truthful a book to come to a conclusion anything less than profound.

In some ways, I think the book is about size. It encompasses a vast time scale. In fact, it goes right outside of time. And distances inconceivable. But it looks the other way too, at the microscopic. There's a Note on Magnitude at the end, where the author says "Immensity is not in itself a good thing." Somehow this book is both immense and only 253 pages long.

On the front cover, there's a quote from Arthur C Clarke. I'm normally allergic to blurb, but - well - Clarke says: "Probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written." I'd go with that.
Profile Image for Kiri.
679 reviews40 followers
January 23, 2009
I really wanted to like this book, especially given its glowing reviews and being hailed as early sci-fi with lots of great ideas, etc., etc. It does contain some really cool ideas about extraterrestrial species (and some somewhat less accessible/relevant/persuasive ideas about the organization of the universe), but it reads like a textbook. There is no real character/narrator, just a frame story about "mental interstellar travel" that allows the text to move around from planet to planet. There is no real plot. There are no actual stories that happen on these planets, just summaries. Did Stapledon miss the "show, don't tell" guideline? My attention waned, and in the end I only made it halfway through. I did, however, discover the best way to get acquainted with the innovative ideas buried in the book -- have your fellow book club members, who actually did finish the book, recap the cool bits and save you the reading time.
Profile Image for S. Zahler.
Author 25 books837 followers
January 20, 2022
Star Maker inverts the compliment commonly given to nonfiction books: "It's so good, it read like fiction." Olaf Stapledon's 1937 novel reads like nonfiction--cerebral, dry, and academic nonfiction sans drama, sans conflict, sans characterization, and sans humor composed of many paragraph-length sentences. And yet, the awe-inspiring cosmological, astronomical, anthropological, xenobiological, hyperdimensional, sociological, and ontological ideas contained in Star Maker are staggering and myriad. More than 95% of the events in this book are told rather than shown, but the vision and originality here far exceeds any I've found in so-called golden age sci-fi stories of the 1940s (as do my favorite Stanley G. Weinbaum and Donald Wandrei tales from the 1930s). Stapledon's brilliant inventions in this book are John Coltrane's saxophone on Love Supreme and Dave Mustaine's riffs on Rust in Peace, though unlike those artists who employ the standardized frameworks of a jazz quartet and a metal band, this author eschews most of the aspects of a traditional novel.

Stapledon's inexorable investigations illuminate alien cultures akin to mankind, alien cultures very far removed from mankind, inscrutable communal intelligences, besmirched and self-conscious astral bodies, symbiotic evolutions, metaphysical communities, and artificial planeteers. My favorite sections deal with disruptive solar events (rare moments of tension), the space "perverts," and the alien civilizations. These aren't green, one-eyed martians, but very exotic aliens: The weirdly evolved plant men are fascinating as are the symbiotic relationships between arachnoids and ichthyoids. The bizarre progenitive rites of the nautiloids are unique, and the composite avian species is brilliantly conceived. And how about a cosmos with no spatial dimensions, but only sonic ones wherein live musical notes? Each race is worthy of its own book or movie, but is just a single chapter or page in this creative cornucopia.

At one point, Stapledon mentioned the perils of a worm falling half an inch on world with incredibly high gravity, and I could not help but think of Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, the novel often credited as being the first hard sci-fi novel (and recommended by me as well). I don't know if Clement was inspired by Stapledon, but the point I'd like to make is that this idea---a lone sentence not even amongst top five best ideas in that chapter--was a fertile enough seed to grow an entire novel. And other key concepts in this book appear in Childhood's End, my favorite book by Arthur C. Clarke. I see connections to Robert L. Forward and (my #1 favorite sci-fi author) Greg Egan as well.

Star Maker is a distillation of the "genre of big ideas" down to just its "big ideas," and it is a vast, highly inquisitive, and mind-expanding journey.
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,065 followers
January 12, 2023
In vain my fatigued, my tortured attention strained to follow…

I made the mistake of thinking this was going to be a quick read. Not so.

I have tried to construct an imaginative sketch of the dread but vital whole of things. I know well that it is a ludicrously inadequate and, in some ways, a childish sketch, even when regarded from the angle of contemporary human experience. In a calmer and a wiser age, it might well seem crazy. Yet in spite of its crudity, and in spite of its remoteness, it is perhaps not wholly irrelevant. - from the preface.

I don’t even know where to start writing down my thoughts about Star Maker. It is quite unlike most other novels I’ve read, even taking traditionally “niche” genres like speculative fiction into account. The book was published in 1937, and though my context is limited I reckon it is pretty dissimilar to anything else coming out of the field at the time. Part future-historical textbook detailing the history of the cosmos, part philosophical and religious musing, part travelogue of the universe (and, in fact, the multi-verse), part exercise in world building and exotic alien culture, part cosmic horror, et al.

The book contains sequences that are absolutely spectacular, and often the prose is extremely beautiful. However, there are also sequences that are dry and plodding, especially when the author gets bogged down in details about hypothetical cultures and their social evolution over countless generations etc. But when Star Maker soars, it does so in spectacular fashion.

Overhead, obscurity unveiled a star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community? But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely of the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love, no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.

There is almost no plot, and yet the story gets ever bigger and bigger as it progresses. To get any joy from this novel you will have to read it to the end, since the culmination of events (where we get a glimpse of the author’s world view and belief system, or philosophy) is really at the heart of a book like this (which might seem like a pointless exercise to casual readers).

Personally, I found it a challenging read, but an eventually rewarding (and, in fact, momentous) one. Stapledon deals with ideas that have arguably never been rivaled since in sheer scope. Some of the themes and the nature of the Star Maker itself inevitably seems to have created a stir at the time, and divided opinion amongst Stapledon's contemporaries, but it is as grand a vision as you are ever likely to read when it comes to big idea Science Fiction.

Awed by this spectacle, we stayed long motionless in the void. It was indeed a stirring experience to see spread out before us a whole "universe," containing a billion stars and perhaps thousands of inhabited worlds; and to know that each tiny fleck in the black sky was itself another such "universe," and that millions more of them were invisible only because of their extreme remoteness. What was the significance of this physical immensity and complexity? By itself, plainly, it constituted nothing but sheer futility and desolation. But with awe and hope we told ourselves that it promised an even greater complexity and subtlety and diversity of the psychical. This alone could justify it. But this formidable promise, though inspiring, was also terrifying.

The take-home, I suppose, for me, is the juxtaposition of hope and futility, on a scale so as to hurt the mind (the eternal struggle) and the fact that (even now) we know so little and think we know so much.

To me, the little human individual, all that is most distinctive in it is now quite incomprehensible.

In the end, as an academic exercise (that's to say, as a faux-future-historical text about the beginning and ending of all Cosmoi, and as a theological musing on the nature of Creator vs Creation, and what it means to be "awakened" or sentient) this is a five star book. However, reading it is at times tough as nails, and therefore I have subtracted a star.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
495 reviews65 followers
March 15, 2022
I was somehow let down by this one. The foreword waxes on about how mindbrowing and transcending it is, calling it undefinable and not really a scifi novel. Well on that point we can at least agree.

A human learns without any explanation to travel in space and time with his mind, and thus begins a long account of his explorations on other planets where he meets other intelligent beings (annoyingly called humans when what he actually means is they are humanoid), one which he mindmelts with, and together he explores the world of this other man, and later brings him along into the universe to explore together.

There are chapters upon chapters of descriptions of life on other planets, how they look, how they reproduce. I mostly felt like I was watching a very long nature program about life on the savanna - and not narrated by Attenborough.

While I do love nature programs, it meant that this has very little plot and dramatic tension. It does have some philosophical speculation on our creation and creator, the Star Maker, but otherwise this sort of comes off as a non fiction book, only with made-up animals - or peoples. So I agree, it is not exactly a science fiction story as there is no science in it.

It is certainly imaginative, though, I’ll give Stapledon that. But I doubt I’ll read more of him.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,079 reviews108 followers
May 18, 2019
This is a SF novel from 1937, it shows a way the genre could have gone. It is like a dinosaur, it is great in some aspects and modern animal can go green with envy for their advantages but ultimately it was unfit, so the evolution done its deed.

The story follows the narrator’s journey through the space and time of the universe. It can be split into five major parts:
Part one, the physical universe. The narrator (soul?) goes from the Earth and travels across the galaxy. He sees different stars and their life-cycle, found out that there are rarely any planets around. Planets in the goldilocks zone are even rarer. Ones with life are rarer still, for many planets lose their atmosphere or fall prey to celestial calamities. And a sentient life is rarest of all.
Part two, the first encounter with aliens. After despairing to find any, our narrator discovers new people (throughout the novel all species are essentially people even if they are hive minds or trees), who are similar to humans but with worse hearing and better olfactory. There follows their physical and social descriptions, the later ones clearly a response to current day (1930s) politics. For example,

When its civilization had reached a stage and character much like our own, a stage in which the ideals of the masses are without the guidance of any well-established tradition, and in which natural science is enslaved to individualistic industry, biologists discovered the technique of artificial insemination. Now at this time there happened to be a wide-spread cult of irrationalism, of instinct, of ruthlessness, and of the "divine" primitive "brute-man." This figure was particularly admired when he combined brutishness with the power of the mob-controller. Several countries were subjected to tyrants of this type, and in the so-called democratic states the same type was much favored by popular taste.

In both kinds of country, women craved "brute-men" as lovers and as fathers for their children. Since in the "democratic" countries women had attained great economic independence, their demand for fertilization by "brute-men" caused the whole matter to be commercialized. Males of the desirable type were taken up by syndicates, and graded in five ranks of desirability. At a moderate charge, fixed in relation to the grade of the father, any woman could obtain "brute-man" fertilization. So cheap was the fifth grade that only the most abject paupers were debarred from its services. The charge for actual copulation with even the lowest grade of selected male was, of course, much higher, since perforce the supply was limited.

In the non-democratic countries events took a different turn. In each of these regions a tyrant of the fashionable type gathered upon his own person the adoration of the whole population. He was the god-sent hero. He was himself p divine. Every woman longed passionately to have him, if not as a lover, at least as father of her children. In some lands artificial insemination from the Master was permitted only as a supreme distinction for women of perfect type. Ordinary women of every class, however, were entitled to insemination from the authorized aristocratic stud of "brute-men." In other countries the Master himself condescended to be the father of the whole future population.

Part three follows the description of multitude of sentient races, the wealth for dozens of books: not only similar to us but symbiotic people, composite (i.e. hive mind) people, including birds and insects, giant sentient living ships, tree-humans, sea star people, etc.

Part four describes galactic civilizations, for this is hard SF and no faster than light travel exists, but there is instantaneous communications of the mind and most civilizations reach world-mind superorganism level at some point. Rise and fall of galactic empires, brute force overcome by pacifism. Even stars themselves get sentient.

Part five is the most bizarre. Star maker is the demiurge, who created our universe, but for him (she/it/they) it is not a cherished creation, but a finished picture – he doesn’t care about it and he thinks about his new works. He cares even less for something fickle and evanescent as life, which is so rare and fast (compared with the universe). This is the only religious-philosophical text I’ve met that says ‘god exist, but you don’t exist for him, for you’re too insignificant’.

All this stuff is great. However, only selected few will read through the whole book for the writing is extremely dull. It is page after page of descriptions, akin to old academic books, almost unreadable and clearly not enjoyable.
Profile Image for Quentin Crisp.
Author 48 books178 followers
June 28, 2016
It might be best for me to try and write a review as I go along.

This is the first of 25 books in a list I've drawn up for myself of works of science fiction to read in 2016.

The basic idea of Star Maker is quite simple, but extremely ambitious: If a human consciousness could detach from the body in order to explore the universe, what would it discover? Reading it, I began to wonder why no one else seems to have attempted such an idea, as well as wondering why I had not heard of Stapledon. The truth is, I had heard of him, but only in passing, and the name had not stuck in my consciousness.

There were a number of worries I entertained before starting out on my 2016 SF reading list.

1. Would the prose be any good?

Some people might be annoyed by the assumption that much prose in the field of SF is bad, but it's not as if I've never read SF before, though I feel myself somewhat behind in the area. For instance, I've read a few of Philip K. Dick's works, and though I enjoyed them quite a lot, I found the prose to be fairly poor. Anyway, the prose of Star Maker is finely tooled and sensitive. How can I put this? Stapledon is clearly not from a pulp fiction kind of background.

2. Would the worldview be, a few dystopias and veiled gnosticism aside, a shallow view of technological triumphalism?

Star Maker is clearly written by someone with a deep interest in science, philosophy, and the most essential spiritual questions of the human race.

Actually, most of my questions were probably variants of these two.

I have become so sensitive in recent years (in an irritated kind of way) to half-baked philosophy in fiction, that I was ready, from the start, to find it in this book. I felt some twitches of doubt on this score in the opening pages, but then, after a while, I began to think, "Hang on, this guy actually does have a grasp of philosophy, especially regarding what questions to ask in the first place." Looking him up online, I found that he had a PhD in philosophy. While it would perhaps be complacent to say, "That explains it", nonetheless, I felt vindicated in some way.

So, what are the right questions?

"... not only to explore the depths of the physical universe, but to discover what part life and mind were actually playing among the stars." (p.13)

I remember reading in The Book of Lies by Aleister Crowley, the epigram, "The universe is a joke made by the general at the expense of the particular."

In the quote above, from page 13 of the book, Stapledon signals his bold intent to discover the place of the particular (joke or otherwise) within the general. One question for me as a reader is whether he succeeds in that intent. I will, perhaps, only know for sure when I have finished. It's really an impossible task the author has set himself, so if I fault him early on, it must not be taken for a lack of enthusiasm. There's no doubt that the sweep of cosmic vision that Stapledon achieves here is something remarkable (it is unique in my own experience of reading). However, because I don't want to lose the thread of my own thoughts about the book, I'll note here now, that I have a feeling that Stapledon sometimes gets lost, not in details, as it were, but in 'the big picture'. He is in danger of erring on the side of the general in this exploration of the relations of general and particular.

A sample quote from page 101:

"I must not tell in detail of the heroic struggle by which the race refashioned its symbiotic nature to suit the career that lay before it."

Variations of the opening clause of this sentence are repeated a number of times in the narrative. "I must not stop to describe in detail..." Of course, we can see why, but does this compromise the original philosophical intent?

This is one of the questions I now have in mind as I am reading. I noticed, after this question had already formed in my mind, that Stapledon seemed to redress the balance a little on page 127, which, perhaps, I shall quote later. I shall stop here for now (8th of January, 2016).
Profile Image for fromcouchtomoon.
311 reviews64 followers
January 6, 2016
All hail the master Stapledon! With his no plot, no struggle, no conflict, textbookshual novels, hahaha. It stands on its own as a gorgeous and inventive investigation of humanity, but I also can't help but see this as an allegory of pre- and inter-war year tensions, with alien depictions reflecting early 20th assertions of national identity, as if Stapledon is trying to pinpoint the common bit of humanity left in the ruthless world powers of the 1930s. Another for the re-read shelf! Another for the speculative reference shelf!
Profile Image for Ed Erwin.
929 reviews99 followers
May 31, 2019
This novel has many great and fascinating ideas in it about the nature of life, the universe, and everything. Far, far too many ideas.

Many of the ideas are still being talked about in modern cosmology. But with a few exceptions (e.g. expanding universe) there is little evidence for any of them.

Fascinating in small doses. Pretty tough to get through the whole thing.

Easier to read than Eureka: A Prose Poem by Edgar Allan Poe, but that's not saying much!
1 review
June 29, 2008
An amazing, challenging tour of the universe through the eyes of a cosmic voyager growing gradually into a transcendent vision of Creation and Eternity. Mixes everything from Einstein to Buddha and astrophysics to strange life forms in megagravity environments. Never read anything like it. Great prose style, and especially remarkable for the fact it was written just as WWII was a gathering storm. That is, pre Zen in the West, pre marijuana and LSD, pre Fritjof Capra, but more in tune with the Cosmos than all of these. For some additonal info, see:
Profile Image for Jordi Balcells.
Author 19 books108 followers
December 28, 2014
No es una novela ni es ciencia ficción, por mucho que así la clasifiquen por ahí. Es un ensayo filosófico sobre la vida, el universo y todo lo demás. Lo que pasa es que es muy especulativo y habla de astronomía, de inteligencia artificial, de exobiología, de psicología, de física, etc. Y claro, ya se sabe que un libro que habla de un futuro y del universo tiene que ser ciencia ficción sí o sí, ¿verdad?

Premisa: un señor inglés se pone a mirar las estrellas y tiene un viaje astral de eones a lo largo y ancho del cosmos por el pasado, el presente, el futuro y otras realidades. En ese viaje encuentra sociedades similares a la nuestra, describe su funcionamiento, cómo han llegado hasta allí, y sus triunfos y fracasos. Algunas evolucionan a un pensamiento / espiritualidad superior (rollo Antiguos de Stargate) y otras se extinguen por su propia mano, la de otros o por desastres naturales. En este viaje busca el sentido de la vida y el Hacedor de estrellas, el Creador o el dios supremo. A veces tiene tintes religiosos, muy cristianos y a veces es más neutral, místico sin más.

Este libro se publicó en 1937 en el Reino Unido, por lo que se podría decir que su autor estaba muy preocupado por lo que se le venía encima a Europa y al mundo con la guerra por la supremacía entre superpotencias, con el aumento de la intolerancia y de los extremismos políticos. Por eso el primer tercio del libro trata de cómo sociedades de seres en un momento evolutivo similar al nuestro pueden superar sus diferencias y unirse en un ideal común para llegar a ser una mente planetaria, manteniendo su independencia como seres. Vamos, comunismo versus liberalismo y cómo encontrar un equilibrio satisfactorio. La segunda parte del libro trata de la unión entre especies más o menos distintas para aumentar el campo de acción de esta mente "enjambre". Y la tercera parte del libro mejor no digo de qué trata por no desvelar acontecimientos.

El libro se merece cinco estrellas por su gran relevancia en la historia de la ciencia ficción. Aldiss, Clarke, Borges y Lewis son algunos de los autores que más han reconocido su admiración por el libro, según la Wikipedia. El físico Dyson reconoce que sacó la idea de sus famosas esferas de Dyson de este libro. Aunque no lo mencione la Wikipedia, he reconocido guiños claros al viaje astral de los personajes de 2001 y 2010 de Clarke (no he leído los otros libros de la saga), a la Fundación de Asimov (sociedad galáctica, uso de la telepatía como unión y arma de control mental) y a Las naves del tiempo de Baxter por su viaje astral a lo largo de la historia del universo. Y seguro que se me escapan nombres importantes que ahora no se me ocurren o que no he tenido ocasión de leer. Es increíble lo que consiguió Stapledon en 1937, está al nivel de Verne o Wells y su nombre casi se ha olvidado en comparación con estos grandes.

El problema es que no es una novela, es un libro de filosofía. No se le notan demasiado los años en el lenguaje, pero sí las ideas complejas y muy desarrolladas y las frases larguísimas, algo que dificulta enormemente la lectura y que hace de este libro un remedio perfecto para el insomnio. Por eso debo quitarle una estrella, porque es aburridísimo salvo en contadas ocasiones. Quizá en español se haga más soportable, al estar nosotros más acostumbrados a las frases largas.

Ejemplo de frase larga que hay que leer cinco veces para entender:

The crude spiritual "material" which he objectified from his own hidden depth for the formation of his new creature was molded to his still tentative purpose with more sympathetic intelligence, with more respect for its nature and its potentiality, though with detachment from its more extravagant demands.
Profile Image for Χρήστος Αρμάντο.
Author 14 books258 followers
June 26, 2017
"Μια νύχτα που είχα γευτεί την πίκρα, βγήκα να ανηφορίσω τον λόφο"

Τελειώνοντας το συναρπαστικό Sapiens του Χαράρι, το οποίο κλείνει με τις προβλέψεις του συγγραφέα για την πορεία του είδους μας στο μέλλον, θυμήθηκα το Star Maker, του Όλαφ Στάπλεντον. Ο αφηγητής εκκινεί από τη σχέση με τη γυναίκα του και στην πορεία, αφού απεκδυθεί με ανεξήγητο τρόπο τη σωματική του υπόσταση, ξεκινά ένα επικό ταξίδι μέσα στα νεφελώματα και τις διαστ��ικές εκρήξεις, για να φτάσει μέχρι τα απώτατα όρια του σύμπαντος και να συναντήσει τον ίδιο τον Δημιουργό. Ένα φιλοσοφικό μυθιστόρημα για την πορεία του ανθρώπινου είδους μέσα στον χώρο και τον χρόνο και τη σχέση του με το Θείο, μια μεγαλειώδης σύλληψη που αποθεώνει συγκινητικά την ενότητα όχι μόνο του ανθρώπου αλλά και ολόκληρου του σύμπαντος. Ο Άρθουρ Κλαρκ το θεωρούσε ένα από τα κορυφαία έργα ΕΦ όλων των εποχών, το αγαπούσαν μεταξύ άλλων η Γουλφ, ο Μπόρχες και ο Λεμ.
Profile Image for Unai.
843 reviews52 followers
January 20, 2020
Me declaro incompetente para comentar algo de este libro. Sobrepasa cualquier expectativa que tuviera y de hecho sobrepasa todo en cualquier aspecto por varios ordenes de magnitud, sobretodo en imaginación y cantidad de propuestas por pagina a cualquier otra cosa que haya leído. Tengo la sensación de que aun le va a llevar algún tiempo a mis subconsciente a procesar lo que he leído pero que se va a quedar allí,como un filtro mental mas a la hora de leer ciencia ficción, como estoy seguro de que se ha quedado en el subconsciente de la mayoría de escritores posteriores a su época. Difícil definir de otra manera este libro que te lleva al infinito absoluto para mostrarnos quienes somos o quienes eramos en aquel periodo entre guerras mundiales.
Profile Image for Dave.
232 reviews19 followers
April 29, 2010
“Star Maker”, by Olaf Stapledon, is an incredible novel by an author whose contributions to science fiction are unique and serve as inspiration to many of the greatest works in the field. It was Stapledon’s fourth novel and was first published in 1937. Narrated by the same voice as narrated “Last and First Men” the novel is a sequel of sorts, but at the same time it has a much larger scope and thus there is no noticeable overlap between the two novels. As with “Last and First Men”, “Star Maker” is not a conventional novel, so if that is what you are looking for, you should look elsewhere. It is a philosophical journey rather than a conventional story with a traditional plot and characters.

The narrator takes the reader on a journey through the universe and through time, starting on a hill near his home, and ultimately finding the creator of the universe, i.e. the Star Maker. He witnesses the entire life of the universe, and joins with many other minds from other civilizations throughout the galaxy. It is tempting to use phrases like “for its time” when describing this book, but it is a remarkable work for any time. I am sure that some of descriptions of civilizations and their scientific achievements would change if it were written today. However, the statement that the book makes would likely remain the same.

One does not need to read “Last and First Men” (or “Last Men in London” for that matter) to read this novel. The few remarks made in the narration that reference “Last and First Men” will not cause the reader any difficulty. They pass by almost unnoticed, as the reader’s focus is on the amazing scope and vision which are contained in this novel. Stapledon’s works are not the easiest reads, but they are well worth the effort. The echos of Stapledon’s ideas can be read in the works of numerous authors and in some of the greatest works of science fiction.

This book was tied for 13th on the Arkham Survey in 1949 as one of the ‘Basic SF Titles’. It also was tied for 30th on the 1975 Locus All-Time poll for Novels; and 32nd on the 1998 Locus All-Time Poll for Novels written prior to 1990. This particular edition includes a Foreword by Brian W. Aldiss, and also includes A Note on Magnitude, Time Lines, and a Glossary all created by Olaf Stapledon. This is the 21st of the SF Masterworks paperbacks released by Victor Gollancz Books. If this is an indication of the quality of work they have done throughout the series, then it is a very worthwhile series to own.
Profile Image for Denis Vasilev.
631 reviews92 followers
November 24, 2020
Просто удивительная по качеству фантастика, еще и написанная в 1937 году. Всем инопланетянам инопланетяне. Удивительно что книга достаточно малоизвестна, при всей ее значимости и влиянии на более позднюю фантастику. Фактически запас идей на кучу книг, сериалов, игр
Profile Image for William Oarlock.
46 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2015
One of the most influential pieces of science fiction ever written, Arthur C. Clarke ("Childhood's End"), John Wyndham ("Chocky"), Carl Sagan ("Contact") and even Douglas Adams ("The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy") all owe their cosmic scope to Stapledon.

The plot is fairly simple; our unnamed narrator while contemplating the infinite on an evening walk, goes on a psychic trip through the galaxy and beyond. Joining with myriad other minds from other cosmic sapients into a collective consciousness, they journey space and time, observing numerous worlds along with the rise and fall of galactic and intergalactic powers and their struggles and triumphs.

At the novel's climax this roving collective beholds the final death of the universe and the 'ultimate moment' the encounter with our creator the titular Star Maker - the hypercosmic intelligence engaged in creating universe after universe, to whom sapient beings are an unforeseen by-product, observing their trials and tribulations with simultaneous empathy and 'diabolic glee'. After this inspiring, yet dispiriting, ecounter the narrator returns to his life on Earth prescisely where and when he left.

Highly recommended.

"We die praising the universe in which at least such an achievement as ours can be. We die knowing that the promise of further glory outlives us in other galaxies. We die praising the Star Maker, the Star Destroyer."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Daniel Roy.
Author 4 books69 followers
March 24, 2013
If you like SF stories that project far, far into the distant future, then Star Maker will leave you breathless. I don't think there's a single book in existence that can dwarf the scope and grandeur of this one. How can you write something bigger than the ultimate destiny of all the Universes in existence?

If Star Maker had been published in 2013, it would be a marvel of scope and imagination. But for a book published in 1937, its inventiveness is mind-boggling. I'm left with the same sense of awe I felt when I first read The Lord of the Rings, and realized that it was the progenitor and unrivaled superior to all the sword and sorcery novels I read as a kid. You can see in Star Maker so many of the seeds that would grow in other SF authors' minds, from Arthur C. Clarke to Stephen Baxter, and even Iain M. Banks's Culture series. There's a cornucopia of fantastic SF ideas here; from hive minds to planet ships, and even the very first appearance of the Dyson sphere.

That's not to say that Star Maker will feel familiar to SF readers. The book is quite unique in the history of SF for its tone, message, and overall purpose. There is only the fleeting concept of a protagonist, and although the story moves forward in time towards a final resolution, it doesn't carry the tension of a dramatic arc. Instead, Star Maker is a chronicle of the future of the Galaxy, the Universe, and beyond.

At its heart, Mr. Stapledon's book reads half like a chronicle of the future, half as a philosophical treatise on the meaning of existence and the yearning for lucidity and understanding. As a philosophical work, it stands on its own as well; it's fascinating to read about Star Maker's future civilizations, and their struggle between the impulse for conflict and the search for truth and unity. Star Maker eventually takes a turn for the religious, but it does so with enough of a sense of allegory and myth that it doesn't lose its philosophical potency. Still, it bears mentioning that at its core, Star Maker is a religious book. I'm pleased that Stapledon decided to articulate his religious musings in scientific terms, too; that's a conjunction we rarely ever see these days.

There are, obviously, some elements that date this novel. Some of the science is wrong based on our modern understanding of the Universe, but there is enough of a sense of rigor according to the theories of the time that it's easy to overlook. A lot of the ways Stapledon articulates his religious concepts are transparently Christian, but there is also some acknowledgement of East Asian philosophy, long before it became in vogue in the West, so it's easy again to overlook. If there's one thing I deplore with the novel, and it's a minor thing, really, is that the overall narrative is extremely masculine. Yes, the point of view is of entire species, but there is very little discussion of gender except in the context of reproduction. It's not a huge thing by any means, but there's definitely a sense of a very masculine book and narrative. It doesn't help that all alien species are designated as "Men". But then, it bears repeating: 1937.

If you want to ponder the distant future of our Universe, this is the book to pick up. You won't get a SF story with a dramatic arc and epic space battles, but what you'll get is a rich, challenging philosophical treatise on the meaning of life, and how our own individual struggles connect us to the moral arc of the Universe. It's pretty well-written, too.
Profile Image for Derek.
1,237 reviews8 followers
March 19, 2017
Last and First Men hurt, but I'm back for more. And Stapledon continues to run with his vast future history, now encompassing the universe. It repeats the original structure, with a series of specific, detailed histories that eventually generalize and summarize, pulling back to show the entire grand scope. And in so doing, dares to slot the events of Last and First Men--the entirety of broadly-defined humanity's existence--as less than a footnote, never having joined galactic society and being obliterated in Sol system by a stellar accident.

But it is more than 'cosmic': this is a spiritual book. Its narrator continues to return to the topic of the Star Maker, the Supreme Being, and as stellar societies merge into galactic civilization and galactic mind, and half a million galaxies pull into synchronization and telepathic accord, the vast, inconceivable mental entity's only purpose is to commune with the Divinity and somehow reach meaning or answers or justification for all the failed species and suffering. And this here approaches something Lovecraftian, as this incomprehensibly vast mortal mind finally touches the source of all and realize how flawed and pitiful and wasteful the entire universe is: a rough draft for the next universal iteration towards some imperceptible goal. The Divine only perceives Its creation frostily, in analysis and infinitely remote dispassion, as It weaves aspects of morality itself into the work, as much as any physical property.

In this, in its conclusion, is a narrator and perhaps an author coming to grips with the onset of the second World War, and the vast suffering and destruction that will be both necessary and regrettable.

This is stark, detailed, frequently dry, and certainly exhausting literature.
Profile Image for Nate D.
1,583 reviews997 followers
February 25, 2010
It is near impossible to imagine a novel with a greater scope than this one, which spans all of cosmic eternity from big bang to the energy death of the universe... and perhaps beyond. In Stapleton's convulsively expanding reference frame humans are almost immediately inconsequential, and shortly thereafter almost any reference to specific planet or even solar system. Some narrative momentum and personal attachment is sacrificed to the remarkable breadth, but this is necessary, and he gets around the problem admirably. Less successful, to me, is some of the exaltation and mysticism that comes up, but this is also obvious from the start given the title of the book.

For a little while, I was expecting this to be a retelling of the Iranian folk story of the Simurgh, surely Borges' fault.
Profile Image for Gendou.
585 reviews261 followers
June 1, 2013
The forward to this book promises "more than science fiction" but, alas, the book delivers something rather less. Part of the problem is, the book is old, written in 1937, before some scientific discoveries were widely accepted/known, and before others were even made. Also, the author isn't very science literate. Just enough to be dangerous.

Basically, the narrator goes on a magical journey through time and space, sees lots of aliens, and meets god "the star maker". The whole story is narrated, and accomplished entirely by "telling" instead of "showing", though this doesn't bother me too much.

A lot of the alien worlds are clever, if a bit half-baked. Take, for example, the tree people. They have an interesting life style, being rooted into place during the day, and free to walk around at night. But his evolutionary exobiology is terribly lacking. Any student of Darwin should find immediate fault with mobile autotrophs.

The author uses a clever technique, to mix two things you don't see mixed on Earth (trees and people), then write about the hybrid product. But Stapledon didn't have the science necessary to do this justice.

The author's writing in terms of vocabulary and prose are quite good. I suspect this is because he's an Englishman. But he uses lots of funny words like "human" and "man" to refer to aliens, which gets confusing. He's doing a British thing where "human" is synonymous with "humane", and where "man" implies a thinking mind.

He uses other words that are shockingly different, in modern reading, than the author seems to have intended. For example, he uses "eugenics" to mean "genetic engineering", but since DNA was not discovered until 1950, I can't fault Stapledon's choice of words. Also, there are bizarre themes of Utopia and galactic Libertarianism that strike me as pitifully naive.

The narrator just asks us to accept unjustified ideas like a whole star that is alive with its own "mind". Writing before the era of computers, he almost gets a pass, but... it's really dumb to say that a star is conscious. He doesn't seem to be up on his science. In the book, stars even get some parasite of their "biological tissues", which doesn't make sense, because no molecules can form in the plasma state of matter... anyway.

For a book that is touted as fabulously open-minded and far-out, I found it terribly myopic (parochial?). The first aliens the narrator encounters are upright walkers who with drably human problems. The narrator makes excuses a lot. Here, he says that the psychic power that drew him to these human-like creatures similar to its possessor. Then, as he meets and is joined by similar creatures, each contributes some difference, so that the coverage of different forms grows ever outwards. Really, the author just needed a convenient way to arrange the book. This trope is lazy.

About those psychic powers. Technology to link minds over large distances using radio would be a cool explanation. But, the powers also draw his consciousness back and forth through time. That sort of causality-violation can't be made paradox free, and so cannot exist as part of any serious science fiction book.

The narrator makes many other poor excuses. When he runs out of ideas on a planet, he just says there isn't time to tell more about it. When something is impossible, the narrator begs forgiveness for being just one mind. When he was part of the traveling psychic space-mind, he could understand everything perfectly well. Yeah right.

Towards the end of the book, we get a tale of god mixing up lots of universes, experimenting with different laws. This is where the story takes a turn for the inane. Star Maker has two separate "spirits" (god and the devil), which he is finally able to express satisfactorily in our universe.

The digression into uninteresting theism is abrupt and has nothing to do with the rest of the book, except to explain away real problems with a non-answer. Why is there struggle and hardship? Oh, because God. Why are there so many galaxies full of rare and precious life? Right, because God. You might as well replace God with Boobs. Why Boobs? Because Boobs, that's why.

Lest my scathingly positive review leave you confused, I enjoyed reading it (thus the 4-star rating) but find enormous fault in its contents. No contradiction there.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Metaphorosis.
719 reviews54 followers
August 1, 2014


3.5 stars

A man suddenly acquires the power to travel mentally throughout all dimensions of the universe, from creation to conclusion. He traces the development of many kinds of life while seeking signs of a postulated creative force.

This is possibly the dullest interesting book I've read, or vice versa. It's seldom that it takes me this long to complete a book (even the dread Alexandria Quartet felt faster), and it could almost be said of this novel that I "couldn't pick it up".

I believe I've read some of Stapledon's work before, though I don't recall when or what - perhaps Last Men in London. In any case, I wasn't sure what to expect.

What I found was a book with an amazing scope (literally the entire lifespan of the universe, and more), and an astounding creativity. Stapledon tosses off interesting and novel ideas every few pages, including the original Dyson sphere. He postulates intriguing intelligences, species, societies, cultures, lifeforms, you name it. There's a mountain of fascinating material in here.

Unfortunately, he presents it all in a style so determinedly dry that it's hard to stay awake for the marvels. Even allowing for the period (1930's), the prose is so clinical that it begs to be treated as an academic report, to be put down in favor of something more engaging. It's a shame, because if you can keep your mind focused, there's a lot here to like.

The main story kicks off on "Other Earth", with what seems a thinly-veiled polemic against capitalist materialism. It ends somewhere in the cosmos with what seems a thinly-veiled paean to religious creationism. But neither of those impressions is really accurate, for in between is a steadfastly logical exploration of the concept of human development. This is a 'what if' story in the best way. If it reads more like a thought experiment than a story, that's not inaccurate.

'Human', in this book, means roughly 'intelligent life'. Stapledon doesn't discriminate between humans shaped like homo sapiens and symbiotic whale-crab partners. What he cares about is how they develop, and how they'll succeed. Most of them don't. This is not a warm and fuzzy YA story, and to his credit, Stapledon doesn't duck the hard questions. He makes some assumptions, and sets in motion a train of events, but there's no magic happy-ever-after. Instead, there's a genuine exploration of what could happen, and what it would mean. 

'What it all means' is a central theme of the novel, and perhaps its reason for being. I found Stapledon's answer to have too strong a religious tinge for my taste, but it's clearly something he (and his narrator) thought long and hard about. Ironically, C.S. Lewis thought Stapledon's answer was "devil worship", so perhaps he hit an unhappy medium after all.

I recommend this book. It's a slow and painful read - much more of a slog than a sprint. But if you persevere, and if you manage to keep Stapledon's ideas in focus, you'll be rewarded. I wish (oh how I wished while I was reading this) that Stapledon had been a lighter writer. He wasn't, but his ideas are worth engaging anyway.
Profile Image for Odile.
Author 5 books27 followers
April 11, 2012
'Star Maker' moved me. Written in the late 1930's, Stapledon was perhaps a bit ahead of his time, or at least, it seems at least as relevant today as it must have been back then.

I would describe the book as a creation myth for the secular age. It is a mystical and spiritual story for those of us who believe in science, and not in a personal God in the tradition of traditional faith, yet who are spiritual seekers all the same.

Based on the astronomical knowledge of the time, Stapledon paints a sweeping picture of the creation of the universe, the development of life on an ever-growing scale, the birth and death of stars, the arising of planetary and galactic consciousness. Though conjectural - it is a myth, after all - much of what Stapledon imagines conforms to scientific ideas of astronomy and biological evolution, even by today's standards, as far as I can judge.

More importantly, this is one of those precious books that speak to the heart and the mind at the same time, in an age where the former is often neglected by those writing for the latter.
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