STAR MAKER (Olaf Stapledon) – An Immanent Divine Comedy

Star Maker is a masterpiece among the greatest works of science fiction. Praised by many of the essential authors of science fiction, the novel’s influence extends through the history of science fiction to the most speculative works of space opera today.

In his introduction to the publication of the novel in the prestigious collection of the SF Masterworks, Brian Aldiss, the great author and critic of science fiction, states:

Star Maker is the most wonderful book I have ever read”.

Arthur C. Clarke, for his part, asserted that Star Maker is

“probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written”.

Among the founding works of science fiction, Star Maker marks the speculative soar, the moment when science fiction becomes fully aware of its imaginative and conceptual amplitude. It is a ground-breaking novel of extravagantly inventive power and an inordinate sense of wonder.

Despite its classicism and its austere and uncompromising style, which may put off the reader who has come to seek simple entertainment, Star Maker remains strangely contemporary.

In his movement from Earth through the multiple created worlds to the vision of an imaginatively figured absolute as a conceptual character (the titular “star maker”) and his return to earth, the narrator presents us with a dantesque yet de-transcendentalized journey, an immanent Divine Comedy.

As far as cutting-edge contemporary philosophy is concerned, I can cite two recent books (2018) which follow the same path and which constitute masterpieces in their genre: The Immanence of Truths by Alain Badiou and Tétralogos by Francois Laruelle.

These two books being difficult to access I refer to my respective reviews, which have tried to expose their common path, despite the great conceptual differences:

During my discussion of each of these two philosophy books Star Maker was my implicit imaginative and speculative reference, but I was at the time of writing unable to incorporate an explicit discussion of Stapledon’s novel into it. This will be a project for another occasion.

So if you want to read pure science fiction, you have to read this extraordinary book. Brian Aldiss even advises us to read it several times:

“[The novel] retains its wonder on successive readings, and repays study”.

Note: I have also attempted a Badiousian reading of another masterpiece of speculative fiction, Anathem by Neal Stephenson


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