Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon


Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon is one of the highest acclaimed science-fiction novels.

And I was bored to death with it.

The premise sounds exciting and interesting; a travel throughout the universe, in search for a creator of the universe, called Star Maker. Often pausing in confusion, loneliness, nothingness. We end meeting different peoples, planets, organisms, and beings unexplainable. Amazing, right? Interesting, exciting, fascinating.

I read it voraciously at first with interest and love, until I noticed a certain recurring theme of old-fashioned theories permeating the story. And I just got annoyed because that’s who I am and I am unashamed to admit it. Feelings are what matter to me when reading, not grammar or high-minded theory. (Not that I’d call this book filled with high minded theory, but an interesting reflection of its time? Yes.)

The recurrence was this: most planets seemed to thrive via a similar socio-economic system to that of our Western world. But you only have to look at our own planet that this is not a prevailing system. This Western-centric view is plain lazy, I expect more from a writer who is writing a book of such a large scope, a book that tries to uncover the mysteries of the universe. Later on we meet other beings, different from us, but still a slight line of a Eurocentric mind can be felt. Especially, when all must end in destruction (this is a part I appreciate in light of the time it was written though). More so, the book, though not told chronologically exactly, tells a story that is entirely teleological. I don’t know what to say about this exactly, except that it irked me and I found it to be a lazy approach of the writer. Next up is the idea of the Star Maker itself, the need for finding meaning behind the universe and shaping this more or less into a being, though not universal, is common. I understood, I waited quietly. But the ultimate confrontation of this Star Maker was nothing but a Christian construct. Blinding, all-knowing though with interesting faults. (This sounds a bit universal and acceptable, but I don’t want to give too much away of the book, trust me, it is very Christian-centric.) The book took so long to climax to this point, and what I get is Christian-influenced godliness? Well. That’s just boring and an extreme anti-climax. I had hoped there was no Star Maker, that there was just endless nothingness. Though reading it in the light of the time it was written I do appreciate the positive message, though not the Western-centric view; which gives off the feeling of excluding others.

I was very happy I reached the end of the book and could start something more interesting.

This was written in 1938, I am well aware, but sometimes books just lose their importance, acclaim and relevance. For me, this is what’s happened to Star Maker. It has been clearly influenced by the upcoming World War II and its anxiety. Moreover, it’s too set in the prevailing theories of the time. Western-centred, theological, and simply ignoring anyone outside the Western-European or USA influenced sphere. I find this to be disappointing because it could have been so great; the writer has limited itself by lack of research. Though I am disappointed of the sci-fi in this book (largely, sadly, very much so), it can be read as an interesting document of the time it was written in. And I like that too, but that’s not what I was looking for, I want some good or fun sci-fi, ya know?

If you’re interested in this time of history, read it, the underlining themes are very clear and interesting to read from a 1938 point of view. If you’re interested in sci-fi, only read it if you want knowledge of classics. But, of course, these are my feelings and yours could be different.

More and more I’m leaning towards wanting pulp sci-fi instead of critically acclaimed works. It’s fun, it has imagination, it’s hilarious and it can be surprisingly poignant too. Critically acclaimed works? Too much up in their own ass most of the time.

I’ll keep reading critically acclaimed works though, maybe just to bash it, but hopefully I’ll find something good. I must.