Download Millennium Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

John Varley is one of the few male genre authors who can write convincing female characters. One is reminded of the fiction of James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon). Varley is able to write like Robert A. Heinlein but without the sexism that marred some of Heinlein’s work. The story is disappointing only in the ending, which relies on a rather clumsy deus ex machina. Varley was one of the more influential science-fiction writers of the 1970’s and helped bring a new social dimension to science fiction. Millennium, though not one of Varley’s early and influential books, was chosen to be made into a 1989 film of the same title.

The book contains an odd error: The ninety-ninth century consistently is referred to in the book as fifty thousand years after the twentieth, whereas this should be a span of only seventy-nine hundred years. There may have been some recalibration of dating, but there is no mention of any such thing in the book.

Food is hardly ever mentioned in Millennium, which is interesting because the author is reputed to be something of a hedonist. Alcohol and cigarettes, however, are mentioned frequently; alcohol is important to Smith and cigarettes to Baltimore. These two items are mentioned often but not described. This authorial choice is typical for the book, which features minimal description. Rather than describing environments, Varley spends his words describing what goes on inside characters’ heads.

The book exhibits many of Varley’s trademarks, such as personal touches that make the characters come alive, interesting human body modifications, and...

(The entire section is 395 words.)