The Ophiuchi Hotline
By John Varley
Why this book?
The Ophiuchi Hotline is the first of four novels set in Varley’s Eight Worlds universe, where bodies are malleable things, and appearance, gender, and even your basic form can be changed on a whim. Its protagonist, Lilo, begins by escaping her execution by allowing an illegally produced replicant to die for her. Her situation deteriorates steadily from there, as she is repeatedly killed and resurrected while passing through the belly of the solar system’s underworld.
This book hits all my sweet spots—a morally ambiguous protagonist, an imaginative plot that provides a running commentary on the many ways we’re making a mess of the present world, and, as a bonus, someone getting chucked into a black hole for making a new kind of food called “bananameat” out of human DNA. What more could you ask?
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