Slow Apocalypse

John Varley, Author
John Varley. Ace, $25.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-441-01757-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 484 pages - 978-0-425-26213-9
Open Ebook - 438 pages - 978-1-101-58150-6
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The title of this molasses-paced story of global devastation is unfortunately apropos. Dave Marshall has advance notice of the rapid and unstoppable destruction of the world’s oil reserves—originally the plot of Marshall’s next movie script, but now horribly true. In a device familiar to readers of Greg Bear’s Blood Music and Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac, oil-eating bacteria intended for use in a single region spread across the globe. Marshall and his friends survive thanks to being rich and well-prepared, while chaos, starvation, and death happen off-screen and in poorer neighborhoods, remote to Marshall and the reader. Varley optimistically posits a postdisaster “Ecotopia” of happy communism and careful resource use that serves as a traumatizing but effective togetherness retreat for Marshall’s family, saving his marriage and teaching his spoiled wife “a new appreciation for real values.” Varley has thought hard about the myriad ways oil is vital to our entire infrastructure, but he never really gets excited about the consequences of its disappearance. (Sept.)
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