In the late '70s, John Varley released a trilogy of wildly creative, ambitious, intricately characterized novels that won critical and popular acclaim, yet somehow never quite carried him past the muddled midlist of the time. Throughout the '80s, he mostly stuck to short stories; his last book, 1992's Steel Beach, was a brilliantly written but disorganized, scattershot novel that begged to be fleshed out into a trilogy of its own. Golden Globe, Varley's long-awaited follow-up, still isn't as tight as his early works, and it's not likely to be the best-selling breakthrough that's eluded him all this time. But it's still a paragon of style, a tricky and enjoyable stroll through Varley's future of casual gender-changing, offhanded sex and sexuality, and lightweight lives. Golden Globe runs along two time tracks: In the first, the multi-pseudonymed protagonist is the top child star of his day, a rich, empire-building, prepubescent media genius. In the second, he's a 100-year-old down-and-out Shakespearean actor struggling to journey from Pluto to Luna in time to play King Lear in the solar system's most hotly anticipated stage production. The real drama of Golden Globe, far more so than the young boy's meteoric rise to fame or the centenarian's road trip, is how the former became the latter. Naturally, Varley obscures this secret as long as possible behind a series of entertaining vignettes and character interactions that serve less as story background than as a tour guide to the universe he's been developing throughout most of his writings over the past few decades. Maybe this distracting dedication to the big picture is what has kept Varley from winning the cult status of such similarly quirky authors as Rudy Rucker and Neal Stephenson, but it also makes his booksincluding Golden Globeconsiderably larger than the sum of their parts.