Review: Star Maker

The moose finished reading Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon the other day. Published in 1937, it remains utterly unique. Called science fiction for lack of any other label, for there is no other which belongs to its class, it is rightly adjudged extraordinary.

Stapledon lectured in philosophy and psychology, and was particularly influenced by Whitehead. Star Maker is not a novel in the conventional sense. Perhaps it is best considered as a conscious attempt at creating a myth we can live with – though admittedly a challenging myth, given humanity’s own irrelevance in it (Humanity eventually dies out on Neptune, after almost coming close to achieving something interesting. This is an aside in the novel; barely a footnote.), and the particular vision of the creator we close with.

Star Maker begins on a hilltop, where an Englishman goes to look at the stars after a disagreement with his partner. Soon he is a disembodied consciousness exploring the stars. He finds other worlds, other intelligences, and learns of them by merging with their consciousness. He teaches his alien host the means of disembodied travel, and they head off further.

The story follows the path of this disembodied consciousness, as it adds to its numbers, and its understanding of the universe expands. It travels through space and time. The great theme is the expansion of consciousness – the creation of collective telepathic minds at each successive level – species, planetary, multi-planetary, cosmic, uniting with the stars, galactic, then multi-galactic – at each stage against the background of conflict and the struggle to overcome illusions and realise the fundamental unity of being. At which point, with the cosmos being as united a consciousness as it gets, it gets a glimpse of its creator, the Star Maker. And then… well, the final chapter is pretty special.

To say the least, the sheer range of imagination is remarkable. Utterly stupendously epic in scope, incorporating, as it does, the entire history and future of the universe, and taking the form of a philosophical-mythical expression of the search for meaning, in a peculiar scientific-mystical form. If it alone survived with the Bible, Buddhist scriptures, etc, it would have a pretty good case for being the revelation which people followed.

A fascinating, challenging read. It is probably impossible not to be affected by it; if nothing else, to be humbled by the scale of things.


4 Responses to “Review: Star Maker”

  1.   R-bot
    May 8th, 2009 | 11:33 pm

    I went to the uni library to get this out, and found the one copy they had. Which instead of having the usual paging system found in most books, had pages 183 through 219 replaced with a duplication of 45 through 81. Not too impressed with my luck.

  2.   Administrator
    May 9th, 2009 | 1:41 pm

    D’oh. There’s a reasonable chance a good second hand bookshops will have an old cheap copy.

  3.   Joey
    May 11th, 2009 | 7:56 pm

    It’s public domain in Australia.

  4. December 9th, 2009 | 2:08 pm

    […] Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. Reviewed in depth here. Utterly extraordinary and amazing novel. […]