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THE OPIUCHI HOTLINE [8 worlds]
Book= VG+ to near-Fine
[This SFBC editon is smaller than the original tall Dial Press hardcover - but the paper quality is better, and I recommend this as the preferred editon if you don't like browned or tan pages.]
John Varley's first novel: The Ophiuchi Hotline. This is part of his "Eight Worlds" series, where the general background is that Invaders came to Jupiter and Earth for purposes known only to them. Most humans on Earth died when every human artifact there was destroyed, and the "secondary" intelligences of Earth were liberated - sperm whales, killer whales, and dolphins. (Humans were third-level intelligences or below.) Humans resisted the Invasion, but the resistance was ignored. What is left of humanity is scattered throughout the solar system in 8 incredibly varied planets or moons. The "Ophiuchi Hotline" is a message stream beamed by laser from the direction of the constellation of Ophiuchi, packed with info that humans have been mining for centuries. It wasn't aimed directly at the Solar System, but off by enough that humans would have to be at a certain level of development to even find it.
Lilo Alexandr-Calypso was a condemned felon, having commited the Crime Against Humanity of tampering with human genetic material. Before her execution, she is offered a "job" by Boss Tweed, ex-President of Luna, who was a fanatic Free Earther, dedicated to the idea of freeing Earth from the Invaders. Of course, cloning a condemned felon was a crime, but what Tweed was looking for was "out-of-the-box" thinkers who relied upon him for their continued existence. A recording of Lilo is promptly made, and "soon" Lilo wakes up as a recording played into a clone, learning that the first two versions died while attempting escape, and Tweed made notes on her behavior patterns to prevent this in the future. This version of Lilo is sent out to Poseidon, a secret colony of Tweed's pet scientists, where ideas for resisting or attacking the Invaders were developed and tested.
Sometime after this, Lilo (or another version) is diverted to look into a new development on the Ophiuchi Hotline. The message has changed, and now seems to be a bill for 400 years of service, threatening termination and "severe penalties" for non-payment. Humans, of course, had been treating it as a natural resource, without any thought of paying for the ability to reply. Lilo is directed to get a copy of the source code, since all translations have some degree of interpretation. She has to buy a ship and go out to the line of strongest signal strength on its passage through the system. En route, her pilot (who normally hunts black holes) tells her that the miners have been collecting data on the Hotline for centuries, and that it doesn't originate from 70 Ophiuchi, but from a point only a half light-year away. Who, how, why? Lilo is about to find out, since she is on her way to meet the Ophiuchites - face to face.
If you are expecting a linear novel with a simple plot pattern, you won't find it here. Varley is exploring the societies and developments inherent in his varied "Eight Worlds" - he is smart and adept at seeing the possible utilizations and consequences of technological advancement and resources available in the Solar System. This book just fizzes with ideas - enough for several novels.
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