John Varley's debut novel, 1977's The Ophiuchi Hotline (a science fiction masterpiece that has been called his finest work ever) has been repackaged and reissued in paperback by Ace Books, along with his classic Gaean trilogy (Titan, Wizard, and Demon).
After a race of supremely advanced aliens invade Earth to liberate the planet's intelligent species -- whales and dolphins! -- the majority of humankind is exiled into space, where, through the magic of bioengineering, they begin to adapt to and thrive in their unforgiving environments. Cutting-edge tech means that humans can modify any body part, regularly store their memories for cloning purposes, and even merge with seemingly benevolent alien beings (known as symbs) to create another entity altogether. The discovery of a steady -- and mostly indecipherable -- stream of data originating from a star system 17 light-years away offers humankind some kind of hope of advancing the species and retaking their homeworld. But when the novel's protagonist (a series of successive clones named Lilo-Alexandr-Calypso) travels out to 70 Ophiuchi, what she finds may not be salvation for the human race but its damnation….
Almost 30 years after it was first released, Varley's first novel -- like Joan Rivers's face -- has barely shown any signs of aging at all. Just as thematically cutting-edge and wildly entertaining as it was back in 1977, The Ophiuchi Hotline is a must-read for anyone claiming to be a science fiction fan. (You know you're an undeniably hard-core genre fan, by the way, if you can properly pronounce this title.) Paul Goat Allen