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I've been a Varley fan for a long time. It was short fiction that grabbed me first, I remember reading "Retrograde Summer" in a Carr Year's Best anthology, in a camp-site somewhere in Brittany, feeling the sun warm me through and through, while I read a story of love and change in the broiling heat of Mercury. There and then I fell in love with Varley's Heinleinesque Eight Worlds.

It's good to come back to Varley in this, The John Varley Reader, a 30th anniversary retrospective of his short works. Sprinkled with Eight Worlds stories, the main attraction here is not so much the stories (though there are five previously uncollected works here - including an Anna Louise Bach story rescued from Last Dangerous Visions), as it is Varley's extensive introductions. They form a short autobiography that takes you from his high school days, through the Haight-Ashbury of the Summer of Love, to the present day. It's a life shaped by word and writing (and Shelties).

So what's here. Like any "best of" collection you'll probably find yourself wondering why some of your favourite stories like "in The Bowl" or "The Black Hole Passes" have been left out, but there's enough here to keep you interested. You'll find little masterpieces like "beatnik Bayou" (one of an occasional stories that explores the earlier lives of characters from his first novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline), alongside pieces that skirt the boundaries between genres, including the award-winning dark "Press Enter" and Le Guin-flavoured "The Persistence of Vision".

If you've not read any Varley this is an excellent place to start. If you're a long-time fan you'll find the glimpse of an author's life fascinating.