cover image Good-bye, Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories

Good-bye, Robinson Crusoe and Other Stories

John Varley. Subterranean (, $45 (344p) ISBN 978-1-59606-528-4

Eleven long-unavailable science fiction stories showcase Varley’s signature themes of freedom and free love in this literary tour of the odder byways of the solar system. Varley (Slow Apocalypse) loves exotic settings: talking black holes in “Lollipop and the Tar Baby,” a hollowed-out comet turned into a space ship in “The Funhouse Effect,” an orbiting resort shaped like a champagne glass in “Blue Champagne,” a tropical “Disneyland” on Pluto in the title story. The stories themselves are solidly stuck in the 1970s; the twist of “The Funhouse Effect” won’t startle modern readers, and the characters killed in “The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)” are mere sketches. The female protagonists of “Bagatelle” and “Equinoctial” are steered through their stories by men, while the sexual power games and clone-family issues in several other stories are no longer edgy. The collection serves best as a time capsule of Varley’s less-known work and silver-age science fiction. (May)