Author: John Varley
Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Ace Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Spoiler-Safe (Probably) Story Synopsis
Warning!! Though I intend to keep the secrets of the second book, it is possible that spoilers for the first book may exist, as the three books are tied rather closely together. Read with caution if you have not read the first one and still intend to.
So, remember all those folks you met in the first book of the Gaean Trilogy? Many of them return (as well as some new faces) for this book, the second and my favorite of the three.
Chris'fer Minor is an incredibly unlucky guy, and he's got a major, psychotic problem. Occasionally, he becomes a completely different person, an angry, sexually aggressive, violent person, though his normal attitude is very laid-back (how could you not be laid-back with a name like Chris'fer?), and is always surprised to find himself with new wounds received from a jealous boyfriend, or to wake up in a city jail for beating a man close to death for looking at him funny. Fortunately for him, a planet exists, out near Saturn, that is run by a god keen on giving miracles to those who deserve them. The planet is named Gaea--named so because that is the name of the god who runs the place--and she's perfectly willing to break normal rules of physics and medicine to cure the sick, aid the poor, and defend the righteous, so long as they give a good show.
Anyway, he convinces the nice Titanide with the shitting-in-public faux pas issue to send him off to Gaea to get himself a miracle cure.
We also get to meet Robin the Nine-fingered, a member of the Coven, a religious sect that bought up some floating cans out in the LaGrange points near the Moon to practice their witchery and lesbianness. These women are of the belief that men are useful for nothing, save the production of semen. Given a few more years, they're pretty sure they'll have that taken care of, too. In any event, Robin, one of the short women (a practical joke from Earth; the sperm sent to the Coven was all from short men), has a form of epilepsy which makes it difficult for her to deal with life, the shakes disabling her for long periods of time. She sends off for the Miracle Cure, and is accepted--off she goes, taking her python Nasu, an ill-tempted but obedient giant fucking snake.
Varley sets this second book a couple decades ahead of the first one, and explains a few very dramatic things. First and foremost, Cirocco Jones has been named the Wizard of Gaea, to act as God's Hand on Earth, as it were. She can talk with god directly, can speak all the languages spoken on the Great Wheel, and acts almost without any direct involvement of the deity. But there are a few quirks. First, the Titanides (in an effort to keep the population of the freely-screwing centaurs down) can no longer reproduce without the direct action of Rocky. Her spit activates the rear-fertilized eggs that have to be implanted in the frontal ovaries for actual birth to occur. Rear-sex, they call it, happens all the time between friends (all Titanides have a rear penis, one that looks very human, but is the size of a horse's, and an anterior vagina) and after such an activity, an un-activated egg pops out a couple days later. Most Titanides just save these as keepsakes, good memories, until they eventually decay after a couple years. In order for pregnancy to occur, that golf-ball-sized egg must be put in Cirocco Jones's mouth, and then crammed in the frontal vagina (Titanides' sex is determined by the frontal genitals--either one or the other). Well, Rocky's not too keen on this, having to be the last say on who does and who does not procreate among the folk she cares for so deeply.
So, Rocky (with Gaby beside her) spends the first half of this book setting out feelers (when she's not utterly drunk on Titanide liquor, the stress of playing God getting to be too much for her) among the "regional brains" of Gaea. After all, Gaea is a big place--you can't expect her to run everything, so each zone in her wheel gets its own brain (save for one, Rhea, who is dead, and Oceanus, who doesn't really care to do anything in favor of Gaea, given that he waged war against her several hundred thousand years ago), and Cirocco is the only person alive who can talk to them without risking immediate death. So, she just might be interested in planting the seeds of revolution, if the regional minds see it as appropriate...
My favorite of the trilogy, I give Wizard two human thumbs and a Titanide hoof up. The storyline is continuous, without too much of the mind-numbing detail that can occasionally bog down SF authors interested in describing a new world. Varley attacks the reader with a near-constant barrage of new ideas, which, moments after you're used to them, he shatters with a whole new revelation.
The Gaean Trilogy
Titan | Wizard | Demon
Written for The Bookworm Turns: An Everything Literary Quest.