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Floating Worlds

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  531 ratings  ·  85 reviews
2000 years in the future, runaway pollution has made the Earth uninhabitable except in giant biodomes. The society is an anarchy, with disputes mediated through the Machiavellian Committee for the Revolution. Mars, Venus and the Moon support flourishing colonies of various political stripes. On the fringes of the solar system, in the Gas Planets, a strange, new, violent ki ...more
Paperback, 542 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Gollancz (first published 1976)
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Manuel Antão
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Realistic SF: "Floating Worlds" by Cecilia Holland

(Original Review, 1980-08-05)

"Floating Worlds" by Cecilia Holland is a terrific book, and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention. Maybe the reason a lot of people don't like it is that the world and the characters it portrays aren't at all nice;
Steve Cooper
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There was a meme I enjoyed during the 2016 election in the US when so many people were haranguing others with lesser-of-two-evils arguments into going along with Democrats. It said ‘If you don’t like the mafia, why don’t you join it and change it from the inside.’ At the time, I felt like the election had forced people into a binary decision with no acceptable option, and this meme captured that feeling pithily. What is the rational response of someone who feels this way? How were defeated Spani ...more
Fx Smeets
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Cecilia Holland is not a science-fiction writer. Any person familiar with the genre will notice her lack of grasp on some of the fan's favorite science-fiction features, mainly the scientific and the gadget sides. The novel use of paraphernalia is ridiculously poor and stamps it irremediably from the seventies: if we were to believe Holland, videophones and air buses would be the only technical innovations humanity could come up with in almost 2,000 years !

This aside, Floating World is a powerfu
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! This deserves its reputation as a lost classic. Written in the style of the late 70s socially conscious scifi epics (leguin, russ, delany, et al), this tells the story of a women from a largely ruined but wholly anarchist earth who, in her effort to negotiate a truce with a race of imperialistic aliens, the Styths, of human-ancestry, bears the children of one of their leaders and integrates into their society. All of the other humans who live with the styths do so as their slaves, so Fl ...more
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
There was a recent article about the top ten best unknown SCI-FI titles of all time and this was one of them. Having never heard of Floating Worlds or its author, Cecilia Holland, I decided to give it a read, not knowing it's a modestly large book at 600+ pages.

The novel is set 2,000 years in the future in which colonies are spread throughout our galaxy and earth has been reduced to a few people living inside domes because they've destroyed the enviornment outside. One woman, an Anarchist (one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
It has been two months since I first started the book, and three days since I finished it, and I am still trying to figure out what just happened. I can only tell you three things about this book...

Floating Worlds has a very detailed and well thought out futuristic universe, complete with technology, political systems and alien races. Of course, being written in the mid-70s, it feels all a little dated - not just in terms of technology, but in socio-political terms as well. You get the impressio
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a book! 600-odd pages covering the life and turbulent times of a woman of the distant future. It's the single SF work by a well-known historical novelist, so as a seasoned SF reader I kept a wary eye open to see what kind of book it would really turn out to be. And I couldn't crack the code. It's something of a historical mashup, sure—Viking raiding parties, bloody tribal rituals, Yakuza families (hence "floating worlds"), backstabbing in the senate—but no single element dominates, and the ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
I read this when it first came out (late 1970s). At the time, sex in SF was practically non-existent, so this book was exciting for its explicit sexuality. However, rather than being a feminist approach, I found the cultural aspects more reactionary. It seemed to me that the heroine was bowled over by the warrior culture's "manly" approach to sex and so succumbed to the alien's dominance and was willing to be limited and circumscribed by his culture just so she could get really good sex.

As a fem
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked the amusing opening idea that anarchists would have their own committee to make sure that the anarchy didn’t get out of control. And I liked that in terms of female sexuality and cultural understanding it’s far beyond your normal 1940s novel. This is a book which absolutely transcends its time. But even though I wanted to enjoy ‘Floating Worlds’, I actually found it quite un-gripping. It's a book to pass the time with, rather than relish. ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was weird and left me greatly unsettled. I’m not sure if it’s point was one about feminism, capitalism, or anarchy. I didn’t enjoy it, but I also couldn’t stop reading it, in part because I was just hoping something good would happen. It didn’t.
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Gah. Ugh. Phew. That was gigantic. I need someone to talk about it with. Agh. I need someone to digest that all with! Are there essays about this book? There should be.

So much! So much is happening! I picked this one up for a bunch of reasons. It's a Strong Female Protagonist (weak Monty Python yey). It's social/political sci-fi, similar to (and loved by, apparently?) Ursula Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson, two authors I greatly admire. It's a "lost classic", which is always appealing (pretty o
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, sf-masterworks
I'm not really sure what to make of this one. For me, it struggled to get going, was overly long and petered out with an ending that left you wondering why you bothered. Don't get me wrong, it certainly had it's moments. Most of the time I was fairly gripped, wanted to find out what would happen, where it was going. And for a while, I thought I knew, until the ending let me down. The dialogue took some getting used to too, always at cross purposes, talking past each other.

Paula Mendoza was an in
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, space-opera
In the distant future, Paula Mendoza, a bisexual black woman, is an emissary from an anarchistic, partially habitable Earth to the terra incognita of Saturn and Uranus, where patriarchal leadership is achieved and maintained by physical dominance among the Styth, a mustachioed, exceptionally tall, and exceptionally aggressive human-descended species that has existed there in relative isolation for some eons (think Klingon). The novel is essentially a mixture of cultural exploration and political ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-scifi
I'm my own worst enemy. I saw this the whole way through to the end because it's a classic, and as a fan of the genre, you owe it to those forerunners to pay homage.

This is an epic space opera seen through the eyes of Paula, an Earthling who ends up at the centre of an inter-galactic war.

The storytelling is clunky and tedious. I had no clue what was going on a lot of the time. There is a lot of political rambling. There's a lot of unexplained stuff about a special kind of alien that doesn't add
Gabriel Clarke
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dense, complex, demanding and quite unlike any recent SF I've read for a while, with the exception of China Mieville's extraordinary Embassytown. This is SF written at the level of literary fiction but with none of the compromises that usually entails. Even more unusually, this is Cecelia Holland's only SF novel outside of her day job as a distinguished historical novelist. In its politics and the challenges it makes of its readers, it's very much a novel of the seventies and its peers would be ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Holland fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Despite the rave reviews and my appreciation of feminist and anarchist (such as Ursula K. LeGuin) science fiction, this novel--apparently, Holland's sole effort in the genre--left me cold. ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was torn on whether to give this a 4 or 5. It's a far spanning sci-fi tale which focuses on diplomacy and culture more than war and technology. Set in the future, the Earth has become an anarchist society living in domes to survive pollution and devastation from past conflicts. The moon is run by a fascist military government, while Mars is a powerful materialistic force to be reckoned with. The balance of power is threatened by the Styths, mutated humans born on abandoned Venusian settlements ...more
Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: bi, scifi
A strange book set in a future (? the dates given are in the 1800s) where humans have colonized multiple planets. Fascists own Mars. Uranus is run by Styths - descendants of Black slaves who now enslave white folks from other planets (also the Black folks have "evolved" to suit Uranus's planetary needs - they are tall and their vision is more sensitive to light). Earth is run by folks who are vaguely described as brown-skinned and are "anarchists." A woman anarchist on Earth ends up working on M ...more
ricard flay
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read this years ago and have always wondered why this, along with The Forever War, Manchild in the Promise Land, and The History of the Hudson Bay Company were never made into movies. There are so many intriging reads that are begging to be put on the screen. Many of these books have been out for a long time and shouln't be too expensive to obtain by a film producer.
Floating Worlds had many unexpected twists and turns making it a pleasuable read. The conflicts between planets have been contiued
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary achievement. 540 pages, all told from Paula Mendoza's (if you want a "feisty female protagonist" look no further!) POV, flatly written and with virtually no insight into her (or anybody else's) thought processes. Holland is not a bad writer, she did this on purpose, so that Paula is defined by her words and deeds - this is a highly daring choice of style and very difficult to pull off, requiring as it does quite a lot of work from the reader too. The sci-fi background of colonised ...more
Wesley Fleure
Oct 13, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterwork
This was definitely one of the top 10 worst reading experiences I’ve had.

I keep this short because don’t want to waste any more time than I already have with this horrible hateful and ignorant book

1. It’s incredibly boring
2. Poorly written
3. Unlikeable characters
4. Unbelievable and uninventive world-building
5. Embarrassing sci-fi
6. Incredibly and needlessly racist
7. I thought quite sexist also though maybe that’s more debatable
8. Superficial and valid political/social commentary

I can’t think
May 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was recently featured in a list of 'best ever' science fiction novels. So I gave it a try.
What I found was a directionless plot - you need to have some idea of what the characters are working towards, or what they even want at all.
Further, there was not a nice character in the book - just unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other, for very little reason.
All the way through the author makes you work to figure out what is going on, but when you do, it does not tie into any rela
Clement Kent
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a surprising, engrossing book with one of the strongest characters in fiction. Paula Mendoza is an anarchist from Earth navigating the complexities of Solar System politics which are mostly dominated by warlike cultures. Built into this story are very surprising anti-racist messages as well as pro-feminist and anti-slavery themes. It is action-packed but not simplistic. Highly recommended.

Those who enjoyed the portrayal of future anarchist societies in the works of Ken MacLeod or Charles
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Add it to the ever expanding pile of novels that are 600 pages long and I'm really not convinced that they need to be. The vision of the future is engaging (and predates the conflict between the inner planets and opa in the expanse by decades) and the protagonist is well drawn and likeable for all her flaws. But the plot simply doesn't have enough going for it to justify those 600 baggy baggy pages. ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
I've been reading this book for maybe a month off and on. It's at times simplistic and amazingly complicated, intimate, with full-fledged characters over spans of time and conflicts.

I finally googled it as I couldn't even remember how I found it (library app suggestion?) as this book reminded me somehow of Dahlgren, a 1970's underground classic I also found by accident.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Too long. Waaaay too long, and with little substance. Sure, the writing is nice, but ultimately there's little going on. The world Holland describes is an interesting one, but in the end it's a big book (650 pages I believe?) just following the heroine around with little of interest going on, unfortunately.

Kindle version has mistakes here and there as usual, due to improper OCR/editing.
Steven Davis
I don't dislike this book, but I won't read it again (630 pages). It's set in the 70s idea of the future, but the writer thinks simply having things happen to a character or have them do things randomly, equals a fully rounded character and plot. It doesn't. It was the author's only SF work (fair enough) but it doesn't inspire or interest me enough to look out for any of their historical fiction. ...more
Sandra Horan
Feb 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Considering Cecilia Holland’s novel Great Maria is one of my favorite novels of all time, Floating Worlds was a huge disappointment. None of the characters were remotely likable, and the storyline was confusing and frankly, uninteresting. Skip this one.
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Chaos Reading: FLOATING WORLDS: Ruby's Challenge *Spoilers* 27 98 Jan 28, 2013 06:59PM  

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Pen name used by Elizabeth Eliot Carter.

Cecelia Holland is one of the world's most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists, ranked by many alongside other giants in that field such as Mary Renault and Larry McMurtry. Over the span of her thirty year career, she's written almost thirty historical novels, including The Firedrake, Rakessy, Two Ravens, Ghost on the Steppe, Death of Attila,

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