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The Ophiuchi Hotline

(Eight Worlds #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,878 ratings  ·  135 reviews
After the effortless capture of Earth by vastly superior aliens, humanity is forced to fight for existence on the Moon and other lumps of airless rock. The invention of the Hotline -- a constant stream of data from a star in the constellation Ophiuchus -- facilitates survival and enables the development of amazing new technologies. Then, after 400 years, humanity's unknown ...more
Paperback, UK edition, 180 pages
Published August 2003 by Gollancz (first published 1977)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Henry Avila
Lilo-Alexandr-Calypso is your typical mad scientist on the moon, of the female persuasion, doing illegal human genetic research, that it's proscribed by the state, doesn't bother her one bit. What annoys Lilo a great deal though, is the death sentence after being arrested and found guilty by the strict court . Set in the far future , when Earthlings have lost the Earth , to powerful, ruthless, alien invaders. The little left of the human race is scattered all around the solar system, from Mercur ...more
After I finished the Gaia trilogy, I knew I had to keep going through all of John Varley's work.

It's not a compulsion. It's a necessity for the sake of my love of SF.

John Varley is one of the most impressive authors of the field I've had the pleasure to experience. The imagination and the devotion to pushing all those envelopes is the key to my love. :)

This one starts out noir with cloning goodness, moves on pretty quickly to the fate of the Earth and how it had been inv
May 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weird book.

Opiuchi Hotline by John Varley, the author of the Gaian trilogy, is about… a lot of stuff – and all rolled up into a hard sci-fi, Bradburyan fantasy mix. I guess if I had to break it down and slap a label on it, I would say this is a first contact story, though a very original one.

This is a difficult book to review, it was kind of hard to follow, and yet, strangely compelling, like Dane Cook narrating a children’s book: contextually OK, but edgy and not just a little disconcerting.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
How do you fight gods?

This is the question humanity is grappling with in John Varley’s The Opiuchi Hotline, a rollicking SF story short enough to gobble up over a couple of afternoons.

In Varley’s future humanity has spread across the eight worlds of the solar system, establishing thriving colonies on Mars, mercury, Venus, even Pluto. But there is a catch, as you might have guessed with their being eight worlds, not nine (note: in Varley’s time Pluto was still a planet).

Earth- the nic
Allison Hurd
Nov 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF @ 56%

I am sad to say I hate this book. It's taking me forever, I have no idea what's going on and am beginning to think this is more a thought experiment in how many ways sex and clones can be used in mundane ways than anything like a story.

While I was initially intrigued at a society with completely flipped morals to ours, and a sort of normalization of trans or non-binary life, it became clear that this wasn't actually assumed fully into the story. I hate the way se
4.5 stars. This is a fantastic story and I am surprised I have not heard more about this as I beleive it has all the makings of a CLASSIC SF novel. This is the first novel set in Varley's "Eight World" universe and is full of very interesting, and I imagine at the time, original concepts. Just a few of these include:

- The ability to back-up via computer a person's personality at any time and to "download" it into a clone of such individual (a strong parallel can be found in Richard
Peter Tillman
2018 reread: I'm at p. 92 of 180 of this compact and amazingly good first novel, and very pleased with how the book is holding up. Kicked it back up to 5 stars. Just about nothing has dated. This was the setup book for Varley's remarkable Eight Worlds future history, his most lasting contribution to SF literature:

The book comes to a rousing and surprisingly hopeful finish, considering that it opened with th
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, series
John Varley is a writer with enormous reserves of imagination, and this book pulses with a gonzo energy as he throws in to the mix a bunch of fun and varied and original ideas. In a manner that’s similar to the inventive classic Babel-17, the plot doesn’t always live up to the exciting ideas and vivid characters and the colorful dynamics coursing through its pages, but this book was always thoroughly enjoyable and provocative, and I definitely want to read more of his work.
Jordan West
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018, library
3.5; I've been aware of Varley since middle school, but his books appeared to be the hardest of hard sci-fi, and thus of very little appeal to me - this however, Varley's first novel, has proven to be (mostly) an exception to my prior assumption, for despite the author's interest in hard science that would later assume central focus, this book can be categorized as a hybrid, being roughly 3/4 New Wave space opera in the tradition of Bester, Dick, and Zelazny, and 1/4 hard science fiction; I foun ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short novel by John Varley, who in the late 1970s was considered by some ‘the next Heinlein’. While I don’t think that he is, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t a good and strong SF author, for he definitely is.

The novel is set in the Eight Worlds universe. The following text will spoiler a bit but no more than the book’s page here on Goodreads. The Mankind lost the Earth to singularity-level (?) invaders. There was no real war, for there was nothing the humanity could have done. Now it l
Dawn C
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: media-ibooks
I recently read Varley's short story "Press Enter" and liked it enough to try a novel of his. But where his short story was a sort of ominous, slow-building cyber horror and character exploration, The Ophiuchi Hotline is a space adventure/space opera, and think by now I've established that I'm simply not into that. I need my scifi to be more philosophical, anthropological, speculative, explorative, full of moral debate and dilemma. It's well written for sure and he obviously has a very vidid ima ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
What an excellent book to be written as a first novel! Not only is the story well-plotted and written, but the cloning theme raises serious questions about what we understand as individuality. It has not been often that a novel has caused me to pause, repeatedly, for reflection.
I read this outside during warm summer days in the quadrangle of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Liked it and probably would have liked it more back in the 70s when it was written...somehow it felt more dated than it really was...Although after reading several Varley books, maybe I just don't care for his writing style...since many seem to love him...
Charlotte Jones
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my shelf for years and I'm so glad that I finally picked it up. I have been getting into science-fiction a lot more recently and think that I read this novel at the perfect time.

I will say, first of all, that this book is extremely confusing at points. Clones and cloning is a huge part of the civilisation in this book and it was difficult to understand what was going on at points but I think that as the story progressed this became much easier.

I love
Jul 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This book starts out *wonderfully*, and I love the premise of the book. Generations ago, humanity was cast out of Earth by Invaders who are so much smarter and more powerful, they actually operate on a completely different plain. A tinkerer of genetic structures gets caught, condemned to death, and rescued by various factions of humanity. It follows her story, although along the way she gets killed and cloned a half dozen times. A cool look at identity, and I definitely loved the world Varley cr ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tend to round up with stars...

I like debut novels as much as I do debut films made by first time script writer / directors. There is either a certain charm to them or other times it is an urgent desperation. The charming ones tend to be simple straight forward if not a bit quaint or quirky. The desperate ones tend to be crammed packed with a multitude of ideas and scene and issues and are filmed in various stylistic manners... It's almost as if the author or film maker believes the
Charles Dee Mitchell
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Try not to take this personally.

In the year 2050, invaders from another galaxy enter our solar system and take over Jupiter and Earth. They have come to make contact with intelligent species like themselves, which unfortunately does not include the human race. On earth they are interested in only whales and dolphins. Human beings they put in the same category as beavers and muskrats. By plowing under the surface of the planet, they cause most earth life to starve. I suppose the invaders are mea
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 5/5

This was a work full to the brim with ideas. One the reasons I read science fiction is just for those sorts of ideas, and in that way this was a rewarding experience. Later authors like Kim Stanley Robinson would work similarly, although turning those passing ideas and brief mentions into pages long infodumps and laborious expositions. Varley isn't lecturing, however, and he's not building anything resembling
Lars Dradrach
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Mcclanahan
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't belive this is the first Varley work I've read. Surprisingly fresh and relevant, considering its age. I found it to be an interesting way of affirming the value of the human spirit through a host of adverse circumstances. Some fascinating characters in extraordinary scenarios.
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wild, pioneering sci-fi ideas. Reminds me of a Reynold's hard sci fi approach, but Varley wrote this in the 70ies and that's just something
Daniel Kenefick
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Los of interesting ideas in this one, from cloning, to unknowable alien invaders, to sleazy alien merchants - to be honest, I wish it were longer; there is a lot to cram in ~200 pages and everything needed a little more time to breathe. Maybe that happens in the sequels.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book and it ended with a warm feeling!
Robert 'Rev. Bob'
Now that's what I call a mindbender.

I read this immediately after Clifford Simak's A Heritage of Stars, and the blurbs make the two books seem very similar. Both were published in the same year, and in both cases Something Happened several hundred years ago that wiped out most of the people on Earth. Aside from that, the books could hardly be more different.

Simak's book is a post-apocalyptic tale of tribal humans taking their first steps toward rediscovering society and technol
Christopher Sutch
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My five-star rating of this book should not be taken as an indication of its literary merit; Varley's prose in his first novel is not exactly masterful. It does, however, get the job done, and this is a pretty impressive debut. This is the kind of science fiction book I enjoy reading: it's about half a dozen different things that somehow all fit together, it contains a bunch of scientific extrapolation (from a mid-1970s perspective), and the plot is pretty ingeniously worked out...and all that i ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Ophichi Hotline was author John Varley's first novel and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards which he later won for a later book titled Persistence of Vision. Varley has always been one of my favorite science fiction writers from back in my ancient history as a kid in school and which I am lately rediscovering. The storyline here is that a superior alien intelligence captures Earth with little effort forcing the human race to flee to some airless harsh environments such as the ...more
Rachel Adiyah
This was a disappointing tale of a society in which Right to Life is considered the right to clone oneself endlessly and to transfer the personality and memory of a person into a clone, thus "keeping them alive". Being a religious person myself, I have no objection to copying a person, but call it that, not continuing a life. (There's no way to transfer a soul.)

The main character is a confused, self-centered person who spreads herself too thin (literally).

The entire book
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Audiobook-- which does not play well with Varley's somewhat long winded writing style. I nearly gave up about half way through as Varley gives little reason to care about the fate of one of many clones. This book is definitely a sort of guided tour of his clever world building, and moves along mostly by deus es machina. The world building is very clever if you don't mind the ineffectualizing of the human race.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kill all dolphins and whales NOW! And possibly octopuses as well, although they have been known to use tools so maybe they're OK but why take chances?

In all seriousness this has aged remarkably well (by not going into any day to day details)! Really clever, except the non-ending but I guess it was written with a sequel in mind which I will definitely be picking up. People who read the book on release had quite a wait (15 years)!
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great story and innovative style.

We follow the heroine through-out the book, but as she is a clone she lives in many differerent places and times and consequently meets with a variety of fates.

Head twist.
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "The Ophiuchi Hotline" by John Varley (BR) 40 41 Nov 11, 2018 08:24AM  
Hard SF: BotM: “The Ophiuchi Hotline” by John Varley 5 34 Jan 03, 2012 05:24AM  

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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)
  • Steel Beach (Eight Worlds #2)
  • The Golden Globe (Eight Worlds #3)
  • Irontown Blues (Eight Worlds #4)
“Gas chamber, gallows. Electric chair, stake, firing squad. Hang by the neck till you’re dead, dead, dead, and may God recycle your soul.” 0 likes
“He was an extraordinarily ugly person, Lilo thought, with the ugliness that only caricature can achieve. As repulsive as a twisted, stunted ghost from the past on Old Earth.” 0 likes
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