Ophiuchi Hotline, The by John Varley

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Book Information  
AuthorJohn Varley
TitleOphiuchi Hotline, The
GenreScience Fiction
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Anonymous
(Mar 27, 2000)

This book was first published in 1977. As such this could represent an early work.
Certainly it predates the Gaea trilogy, Titan, Wizard and Demon, by at least 2 years.

If so it could be considered a fine effort.

The story centers on a genetecist, many centuries into the future. Cloning is commonplace and nobody dies.

Unless you commit a category 3 crime, one against humanity. In which case you are condemned to death
along with all of your memory recordings and tissue samples. Expunged from the records.

This is the fate which has befallen Lilo Calypso, our heroine.

It would make for a short and unexciting tale were this to be all there was to it !

However, Lilo has qualities which are valued by another. A person powerful enough to bypass the checks and balances
instituted by the somewhat static society. A person who arranges for a clone to be executed in Lilos place.

Thus the romp around the solar system begins.

The story revolves around, and is even built around the fact of cloning, Varley switching from
one of Lilos clones viewpoint to another to the point where it almost becomes irritating.

Also irritating is the fact that there are large parts of the story backplot which are quite essential to know,
yet Varley only reveals them well past the midpoint of the novel. There is no point in concealment
as these facts do not conceal anything vital to a denoument. In fact they are the key points on the
cover blurb.

This is the fact that the Earth has been 'cleansed' of technology by the 'invaders'. A mysterious race
who inhabit the depths of gas giants.

The reason given for the cleansing is that Humans are ranked as unintelligent by the invader, while cetecians,
dolphins, killer and sperm whales, are ranked second in the order of intelligence behind the invaders themselves.

This assertion could do with some more explaination. Varley clearly has a backing for that assertion and there are the
remains of clues and pointers in the book which, to me, show that there is a larger backplot behind the scenes than
that which eventually was published in this cover.

This book could have been much bigger, and had it been published later than, say 1985, it probably would have been.

I would have prefered a little more detail describing past events, even an infodump would have been better than simply
waiting for the ground to be covered late in the story.

As it was, for half the book I thought I was reading a different novel to that described on the dustjacket.

For all that, once you reach the end of the book, it is a satisfying read.

Varley could do worse than revisit this novel and get the book he originally wanted to write, published.

All in all, this is a readable book. It isn't up to the standards of the Gaea trilogy which followed.
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