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Slow Apocalypse Hardcover – September 4, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for John Varley

“John Varley is the best writer in America.”—Tom Clancy

“My life experience of John Varley’s stories has been that the great majority of them are literally unforgettable.”—William Gibson

“There are few writers whose work I love more than John Varley’s, purely love.”—Cory Doctorow

“One of science fiction’s most important writers.”—The Washington Post

“Inventive.”—The New York Times

About the Author

John Varley is the author of the Gaean Trilogy (Titan, Wizard, and Demon), Steel Beach, The Golden Globe, Red Thunder, Mammoth, Red Lightning, and Rolling Thunder. He has won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his work.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441017576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441017577
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,097,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Varley has been one of my favorite authors for many years. I have read everything he has published since "Ophiuchi Hotline" and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. I wish I could say the same about "Slow Apocalypse."

If this is, as one reviewer has stated, the new, improved Varley, I'm sorry, but I want the old one back. One of the things I have always liked about Varley is the clarity of his style, his ability to describe situations, characters and plot developments in terms that create a wonderful involvement in the story for the reader. I never thought I would find myself deliberately skimming paragraph after paragraph in an attempt to find the point where the story line once again emerges from the morass of overwhelming detail that comes perilously close to destroying the entire story.

The basic premise is good - the world supply of petroleum has been rendered unusable; apocalypse ensues, complete with the complication of natural disaster - and very well-handled. Everything else in the story evolves from that. Characterization is excellent, you either like or dislike the main characters depending on your own personal biases. They are both clearly drawn individuals and very recognizable types. They are also very believable. One of the secondary characters, Addison, the daughter of the two major protagonists, is someone I would like to know better, ideally in her own book. Varley is one of a very small handful of male writers who can write from a female point of view and do it well.

Having said all this, then, why aren't I giving this book five stars? It's simple, two chapters into the book, I was already thinking "ENOUGH WITH THE GEOGRAPHY LESSON, ALREADY!" It got worse from there. The only thing I have ever seen of Los Angeles is the airport. Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the author himself admits on his website (varley dot net), this book is something different for him. I've been a huge fan of his work for decades, and although I don't love everything he's done, I do find it all extremely readable and worthwhile (even the recent series of young-reader books). Some of his work, I consider to be among the best I've read. (Golden Globe, Steel Beach, Barbie Murders, etc.) I finished reading Slow Apocalypse last night, and after waking from a horrific dream this morning, I'm still not sure how I feel about this one.

Everything certainly seems plausible, and realistic, and Varley's writing style is just as casual and transparent as it ever has been - a great accomplishment, in my mind, when the ideas conveyed by the printed word are able to serve the story without getting in the way - and having been following the author's online blog for years now, it is easy to see how well-spent his time in Los Angeles was, and how he used the experiences from that period to inform and support this story. I now have an idea of the feelings he had as he made his many walking forays into parts of L.A. that most folks never see, traveling along the L.A. River - a concrete monstrosity more like a canal than anything natural - on foot, and making the most of familiarizing himself with the area. I think I also have some inkling about why he decided to leave L.A. and return to Oregon. These bits of information are pleasant for a fan, and certainly enriched my experience of reading the book.

So what about the book? It wasn't what I wanted to read, but I was continually surprised by the events and ideas he presented in it.
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3 Comments 29 of 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(Updated 12/3/13)

The impossible has happened: John Varley has written a mediocre book.

Let's get it out of the way up front: This is a damned depressing novel. A man-made super-bug runs wild and in a matter of days devours every drop of petroleum on and in Earth. Civilization promptly collapses. A pair of what I presume are more or less typical suburban Los Angeles families fight for their lives as they escape the starving, shattered (Varley almost arbitrarily throws in a monster earthquake just to crank the misery up to 11) LA basin to search for relative peace and security in a terrifying new world. Varley's unequalled storytelling prowess makes you feel every bit of the pain and despair his characters experience, to the point where parts of this book are downright hard to get through. You probably will not want to read the whole thing in one sitting.

Now, none of this would be a bad thing if there were an appropriate payoff at the end. It's hard to describe without dropping major spoilers, but the thing is, there really is no payoff - it's ordeal rather than adventure. Our heroes overcome steep odds and eventually find at least temporary sanctuary and... that's it. We learn *nothing* about the plague that started all this - was it deliberately planted, and by whom? Was its global spread by accident or by design? Are those people still around, and are they planning anything else? Mankind is still on a steep slide back to a 19th-century economy, if we're lucky. There is at best a glimmer of hope for the future, and a good chance that even that will be lost.
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