Steel Beach Analysis
by John Varley

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Steel Beach Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Steel Beach belongs to Varley’s Eight Worlds series, which includes The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) and many short stories, including “Options” (1979), “The Barbie Murders” (1977), “The Phantom of Kansas” (1976), and “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank” (1976). The premise of the Eight Worlds series is that Earth has been taken over by overwhelmingly superior aliens, the Invaders, who have much in common with the Jovians, inhabitants of Jupiter and fellow first order intelligences. When these aliens arrived in the solar system, they found the second order intelligences, cetaceans, suffering because of the actions of human beings. Because human beings are classed with beavers, bees, and coral as third order intelligences, the aliens swept away all human engineering efforts to force them to stop polluting the water and air. Billions of human beings on Earth died, but a small number managed to survive in a lunar colony.

These survivors were the original Eight Worlds colonists, moving out from Luna to live on Mercury, Pluto, and other worlds. Fantastic scientific progress is made, both by the human beings themselves and alternately by way of the Ophiuchi Hotline, a continuous broadcast from beyond the solar system that provides the help humanity needs to survive the extremes of temperature and pressure found throughout the solar system. The cloned, long-lived, bioengineered humans of the Eight Worlds have mores and morals different from those of Earthbound humanity because of the differences of their experiences and environments.

The Eight Worlds series does not make up a neat or coherent whole. Contradictions of dates and inventions occur among the works, but this does not seriously detract from a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the individual adventures. Each novel and short story has...

(The entire section is 430 words.)