Varley says that he has had more response to this story than anything he has ever written, that some readers have even told him it changed their lives. Listening to The Persistence of Vision, it is easy to understand why.
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Great science fiction writers are plagued by pigeon-holing. I mean, there's just as much good writing and deep character development in the best sci-fi as there is in so-called "mainstream" fiction. John Varley's Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novella is a perfect case in point.
Yes, Varley has created a mini-society - a cult, of sorts - that exists in a cloud of myth. And, yes, the story resolves in a slightly fantastical way. But at its heart, PERSISTENCE is a classic tale of an outsider encoutering a culture he doesn't understand - yet inexorably finds himself drawn in. It is only through this very different world that he can truly discover himself.
This is a terrific piece of writing that is as accessible to those who shy away from sci-fi as it is to the most hard-core fan. And, with Peter Ganim's terrific narration, it is a perfect listen for a (slightly long) day's commute.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
In a post-apocalyptic near-future, a middle-aged drifter roams from commune to commune in the Southwest United States. Each of these groups has its own culture and he stays a while at each, doing whatever he needs (e.g., going nude, praying, chanting ???Hare Krishna???) to fit in while he???s there. This works well for him ??? he stays fed and sheltered and moves on when he???s ready for a change of scenery.
But when he comes across a walled-in settlement in the middle of Native American land, he finds that he can never fit in because the group who lives there are the adult descendents of women who contracted rubella while pregnant. All of these adults are both deaf and blind, though their children are not. At first the drifter is fascinated by the ways they???ve developed to get around their ???handicap,??? but soon he learns that, in their community, he???s the one with the disability because he will never be able to understand their language ??? a language that is a lot deeper than mere spoken words could ever be.
As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about perception, I was fascinated by a culture that can???t see or hear, and I enjoyed the parts of the story that dealt with how the group overcame their obstacles. Also, the idea that communication without the masks of fake facial expressions and deceptive body language could be more informative than the ???normal??? methods is appealing. We get a lot of information about someone???s internal state through visual and auditory cues and it???s hard to imagine that tactile methods could compensate for missing this input, but John Varley is suggesting that people who are born blind and deaf might develop these sorts of paranormal abilities when normal sensory input is lacking. It is true that some people who are blind or deaf have sensory abilities that seeing and hearing people don???t have, or at least never realized they have (e.g., blindsight, echolocation). Perhaps Varley???s idea isn???t so far-fetched.
The Persistence of Vision, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, will make you think. It will make you consider what kinds of wonderful abilities might be unmasked if you lost some of your ???normal??? abilities. Would it be worth the price?
I listened to Peter Ganim narrate the audio version produced by Audible Frontiers. It was a great production and I???m pleased to see so many Hugo- and Nebula-awarded stories in their catalog.
A story about perception, social experimentation and lots more. The author explores many interesting themes and provides a diverting 2 hourish narrative. In the vein of Silversberg - THE WORLD INSIDE /Harry Harrison - MAKE ROOM MAKE ROOM. Dystopian fiction with a hopefull twist.
Persistence of Vision is classic John Varley in that it is well written, imaginative and very satisfying. I enjoyed it immensely. A great, sensuous take on a delightful utopia.
The story is archetype, proto-new-age 1970s socio-political cultural and psychological commentary. Amusing (or at least interesting) if you think of it that way -- not so much if you just want to take the story at face value. The narration is a bit annoying, coming close to monotone. It actually started to work for me most of the way through, but at first I thought it was more like reading the newspaper for the blind than story telling (though given the theme, it might appeal to the blind). The odd thing is that it really deserves a "don't bother with this" recommendation, but somehow the tedious narration and the tedious 1970s self-indulgent culture were amusing enough that I finished it and did not hate it.
Another book for the 'classic' shelves of my sci if library. The story was unusual and strange and yet held my attention until my last held breath was released at the end.
As a child of the sixties and seventies I would have thought the "periodness" of the book would appeal to me. It did not. In fact it put me off.
I didn't really think of it as an essay on communication as the official review suggested; the writing got in the way. I would not recommend this book.
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