Spoiler-free Review

John Varley is an obscure author. Some people claim he's the heir apparent of Robert Heinlein, Tom Clancey says he's "the greatest author in America." I say he writes pulp fiction that is easy to digest and told in amusing ways.

The Golden Globe fits into his standard paradigm pretty well. It follows a ex-child star, Kenneth "Sparky" Valentine (not his real name), through a couple years of adventure through the solar system. You see, in Varley's future (first put forth in short stories, later envisioned in Steel Beach), Earth is uninhabitable, thanks to "The Invaders" who laid to waste the planet and then conveniently disappeared forever. The humans that remained spread quickly to the most logical place available: the Moon. And then Mars and Venus and Mercury. And Jupiter, then Saturn, then Uranus, then Neptune, then Pluto (as you might well have guessed). Pluto is where the story begins. Pluto, at the edge of the Solar System, seems an unlikely place to find one of the most popular screen personalities of all time (Sparky and His Gang, the show he starred in for decades as a child, thanks to technological achievements in youth-holding, was consistently rated as the most popular show for a generation of children and then adults) to find himself performing Romeo and Juliet. But, that's where he is. He's a classically trained actor, naturally, and is playing the part of Juliet to a 0.2G audience in the only theater on the planet.

Needless to say, Pluto is not the best place to have an interesting action/adventure story. So, Sparky requires some inspiration to leave; his ex-co-star, now an established and ancient director (she regards long-life treatments with disdain, a member of a religious cult that does not agree in such things), is doing King Lear, on The Golden Globe itself, the center of human culture, The Moon.

Naturally, it's never just that easy to get from the furthest point in the Solar System to the Moon. And it's even harder when a hardened criminal from the planetary prison of Charon is sent after him for what Sparky assumes is his less than civil activities involving conning rich people out of their money and jewels. Some things never change. Clever poor people need money and find interesting ways to get it, and rich people employ less-than-legal Mafioso characters to enforce their darker interests.

In all, Varley maintains a strong view of the universe he began in Steel Beach, called the "Eight Worlds" reality, including the intricate webs of artificial intelligence installed into the major cities of humanity (the Moon, the Oberon II star-base outside Uranus, et al) and the strange personalities that come along with them. It's not the best of science fiction, no doubt at all, but it is a quick and interesting read. He's no Heinlein (though he has named some "science" in his universe after him), but he weaves The Golden Globe into an incredibly readable, quick book.


Written for The Bookworm Turns: An Everything Literary Quest.

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