Star Maker (1937) is a Science Fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon. The novel is not quite a sequel to the earlier The First and Last Men (1930) but carries over the same future history themes. Where The First and Last Men is the two billion year future history of Man, Star Maker is the future history of the Cosmos.
Star Maker plot is almost nonexistent, the story follows an unnamed Englishman as our protagonist and our narrator, who by mysterious and unknown methods begins a physically disembodied exploration of our universe. A running theme throughout the novel is the ever expanding and developing collective consciousness of our protagonist. This consciousness is formed from composite sentient parts of the Cosmos becoming increasingly larger in sentient scale and Cosmological timeframes.
Throughout the novel Stapledon details different forms of life; plant based sentient life; animal sentient life so ubiquitous to our own planet and even going as far to detail sentience in nebulae and stars respectively – the latter playing a key role in the formation of the overall Cosmic mind as the novel progresses. The alien species envisioned are varied and interesting – Stapledon manages to avoid the pitfalls of humanoid only aliens resulting in the impression of a rich and varied Cosmos. As the novels progress the detailing becomes less significant as Stapledon begins to paint in broader and broader strokes. Although Stapledon imagines a rich and varied range of physical alien biologies – they are all shown as having compatible consciousness (to some degree) which ultimately means they are of a compatible nature. This is explained away by Stapledon as those with consciousness being capable of the “Spirit” – having innate abilities to appreciate, to create and to be aware of a sense of self.
Whilst Star Maker has a strong scientific footprint it is not hard SF; although much of the Science holds true today. The Galactic scale in the novel was given as extremely large but is still behind modern understanding of the orders of magnitude of Galactic scales. Many of the scientific principles and ideas Stapledon introduced were unique at the time – the “Dyson Sphere” specifically was a key concept in Star Maker and one Freeman Mason felt was a misnomer, preferring this was not named after him. The multiverse is also a new concept detailed in Star Maker – although it is not given its current name the tenets hold true. Another key concept is one of collective consciousness on a Planetary, Galactic and eventually Universal scale leading to a collective intelligence capable of observation of the Star Maker. “In time, it became clear that we, individual inhabitants of a host of other worlds, were playing a small part in one of the great movements by which the cosmos was seeking to know itself, and even to see beyond itself.”
The titular Star Maker is revealed in an oddly religiously philosophical climax where Stapledon seems to make a point of defying religious Orthodoxy drawing criticism from his more religious contemporaries. Star Maker and Olaf Stapledon in general probably had the most influence on Arthur C. Clarke who thought Star Maker was one of the best science fiction stories ever written – this is high praise from such an esteemed author and whilst Star Maker did not have such an effect on this reader it was undoubtedly a fantastic and unique novel, especially considering the developments in science and understanding and that Star Maker still holds up well.
Star Maker is a great if odd novel and recommended to all SF fans.