Wizard by John Varley


WizardThis is the second book of the Gaea Trilogy and this review is intended for readers who have already finished the first novel of the trilogy, Titan.  To read my review of that book, click HERE.

Just as Titan begins in a somewhat normal universe and escalates into an absurd universe, so Wizard picks up at the same gonzo level where the first book ended and escalates into something even more absurd.

This book takes place roughly 75 years after the end of Titan and the two main characters return, Rocky Jones and Gaby Plauget. When Gaea made Rocky the Wizard of Gaea, she also gave her certain powers to go with Rocky’s new station.  Rocky can now talk to all of the creatures that live on the wheel, she has been given eternal youth, and she has been made the sole method of ferterilizing the Titanide’s eggs, making her essentially responsible for the survival of the species.  Gaby, in order to remain on Gaea with Rocky, has had a tougher road.  She works for Gaea on a piecemeal basis, project by project, and her principal reward from Gaea is eternal youth, bit by bit.  She must constantly keep re-earning her prize and is none too happy about it.

Most of the novel, however, deals with two new characters and their exploits on the giant living body of Gaea. Both of them are fairly young and both of them have incurable diseases.  It has been Gaea’s policy for some time now to ask certain humans to come to her (she calls them pilgrims) to be cured.  But Gaea likes her good deeds to be a two-way street – you do something for me first and if I find you worthy, I’ll cure everyone who has your disease.  The something that Gaea always demands is an act of heroism (or death trying).

The young man, Chris, has a disability where he temporarily goes insane and cannot recall his actions while gonzo. When crazy, he can harm innocent people and has a bad problem with rape.  He always feels bad afterward, but what can you do?  He finally screws up his courage and decides to approach Gaea.

The young woman, Robin the Nine-Fingered, comes from a Coven of witches which lives in a habitat at the L2 LaGrange orbit of earth. Long separated from other humans, these women have lived in Lesbian harmony for many years and recreated human culture from their own perspective.  All men are insane rapists running an earth where women are kept as sex slaves.  Human literature, which was all written by women, has been co-opted to seem as if it was mostly written by men.  And so forth.

Robin has a disease in which she periodically has intense siezures where she loses all control. She has become a hateful, violent 19-year-old who hopes eventually to have children, if Gaea can cure her.  She comes before Gaea with a serious attitude problem.

These two unlikely characters are joined together with Rocky and Gaby on a cross-Gaean trip hoping to find situations requiring heroism. Those who have read Titan know that opportunities for heroism exist in abundance on Gaea, but so do the opportunities for death.

And death does play a prominent role in this novel. Varley pulls no punches in his descriptions.

Like Titan, this novel is also largely picaresque as the foursome venture around the rim of Gaea, accompanied by four Titanides, one of which has fallen in love with Chris.  The Titanides are truly amazing creatures, created by Gaea because she wanted Centaurs. All communications between them are sung and they a truly unique sexual perspective (they are composed of one frontal sex and two rear sexes.  This novel is strictly for mature readers.  It contains graphic descriptions of Titanide sex and alien-human sex.

And finally, like Titan, it is a huge, sprawling, comic and yet deadly serious story about survival, godhood, humanity and heroism.  While it is possible to say that it is not quite as good as Titan, it is nonetheless a page-turner and it does amaze and delight.  The scope is huge.  At his finest, John Varley is one of the most challenging, awe-inspiring and shocking science fiction writers of the past thirty years.

This book meets all of those criteria and I highly recommend it–and the Gaea Trilogy–to all mature fantasy/sf readers.

2 thoughts on “Wizard by John Varley

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