The Golden Globe

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 15, 2000

The Golden Globe by John Varley

This discussion attracted nine participants. The Golden Globe is a science fiction story set a few hundred years in our future, in the same “Eight Worlds” universe used for Varley’s earlier novels The Ophiuchi Hotline and Steel Beach. The story follows the life of Kenneth “Sparky” Valentine, an actor who was a famous TV star as a child. Due to tragic event that occurred in his early adulthood, Sparky is on the run from the law. He can’t resist the lure of the stage, so he wanders throughout the Solar System appearing in plays (mostly Shakespearean) under aliases. The book jumps back and forth in time, showing us the adventures of the older Sparky and flashing back to his childhood and how he ended up in his current situation.

Most of us enjoyed this book a lot. We found Sparky to be a charming narrator, with a distinctive narrative voice that kept us turning the pages. We were amused by his friend Elwood P. Dowd, a person only Sparky can see who looks just like James Stewart. The adult Sparky’s adventures were always exciting, and his multifunctional luggage seemed suitable for James Bond. His faithful dog Toby was a delightful companion. The stage productions depicted in the book were fun, particularly “The Five Minute Bard.” The passion of the actor for his craft was particularly apparent in his moving portrayal of King Lear. The depiction of young Kenneth’s rise to stardom was fascinating yet a bit disturbing. And though Varley is not usually regarded as a “hard SF” writer, we found his use of technology in the story to be realistic.

We did find some problems with the book. Some felt the pace dragged a bit near the beginning of the book. A few people found Sparky’s narration to be too smug. One person who is a big Shakespeare fan was disappointed that despite all the emotional evolution Sparky depicted onstage as Hamlet, Lear, and other classic characters, Sparky himself did not grow as a.person.

Overall we had a lot of fun with this novel. We liked the story and appreciated Varley’s skill in making it accessible to those who hadn’t read any “Eight Worlds” stories before. His universe was so interesting that most of us plan to seek out the rest of his work.

— A. T. Campbell, III