Trilogy written by John Varley
, consisting of "Titan
" and "Demon
". Something of a flawed and controversial SF masterpiece, or at the very least a "cult
The trilogy follows the discovery, exploration, and eventual war to control the inside of a creature the size of a large asteroid. Along the way, it covers issues like the responsibilities of deities, the ethics of genetic manipulation, human prejudices, and whether King Kong could beat a fifteen-meter-tall version of Marilyn Monroe. It is a fairly multi-layered work of fiction, but first and foremost it is an SF adventure, with scenes that just beg for a film adaptation. However, most of these scenes involve nearly-impossible special effects.
To start with, "Titan" describes the initial encounter with what appears to be the twelfth moon of Saturn. On approaching the satellite, it turns out to be a large wheel-shaped object with six spokes and a flat outer rim. When the protagonists get too close to the wheel, they are caught by something and their spaceship is destroyed. They awaken inside the wheel, disoriented and tampered with, and set out to discover who or what controls the artificial world. Eventually, they find that the entire structure is one creature, who calls herself Gaea. Gaea has only limited control over the inside of her body, but she is able to create and modify the species that live inside her. If you're thinking this can't be good, you're right. Gaea is demented, evil, and deeply obsessed with American cinema (with nods to Kurosawa and Fellini). The other two books deal mainly with the heroes' attempts to replace Gaea's central intelligence with a new deity. Their attempted coup escalates rapidly into an all-out war, culminating in one of the greatest battle scenes ever written. This involves huge armies of humans, centaurs and zombies, and a final duel between Marilyn Monroe/Gaea, an intelligent blimp, a simply enormous snake, and a ghost.
High points of the trilogy - an amazingly inventive range of biological substitutes for technology, some of the more realistic cultures in SF, and a heroine who actually has a personality (defying all conventional SF rules...)
Low points - a fairly adolescent obsession with weird sex. Rishathra, groups, and a fairly nasty rape scene. In addition, a lot of the biological manipulation is fairly fantastic - nothing I could find that's actually impossible, but it does get pretty unbelievable.