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Bulat Kondratyev
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The Gaea Trilogy: A Masterpiece of Adventure, Humor, Romance, and Philosophy by John Varley

Sex and Buzz Bombs: "Wizard" by John Varley

If you are looking for a science fiction novel that combines adventure, humor, romance, and philosophy, you might want to check out "Wizard" by John Varley. It is the second book in his Gaea Trilogy, which also includes "Titan" and "Demon". It was published in 1980 and nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981.

Sex and Buzz Bombs: "Wizard" by John Varley

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What is "Wizard" about?

"Wizard" takes place in 2100, seventy-five years after the events in "Titan". In the first book, a group of human explorers discovered a giant living ringworld orbiting Saturn, which they named Gaea. They also learned that Gaea was a sentient being who could manipulate her environment and create various life forms. Some of them decided to stay on Gaea and became her friends or enemies.

In "Wizard", we follow the adventures of Cirocco Jones, who has become Gaea's Wizard, a sort of ambassador and troubleshooter. She is also an alcoholic, depressed by the burden of her role and the fate of her people. Her companion is Gaby Plauget, an engineer who works on various projects for Gaea, such as building a highway around the ringworld. They are joined by two pilgrims from Earth, Chris Major and Robin the Nine-Fingered, who seek a cure for their diseases from Gaea. Along the way, they encounter many dangers and wonders, such as angels, centaurs, buzz bombs, zombies, and movie monsters.

Why is it a classic science fiction novel?

"Wizard" is a classic science fiction novel because it explores many themes and ideas that are relevant to our own world and society. It questions the nature of reality, identity, morality, religion, sexuality, politics, and ecology. It also challenges our assumptions and prejudices about ourselves and others. It shows us how we can be both heroic and flawed, compassionate and cruel, rational and irrational.

"Wizard" is also a classic science fiction novel because it creates a rich and imaginative world that is full of surprises and wonders. It draws inspiration from various sources, such as mythology, history, literature, cinema, music, and science. It blends fantasy and science fiction elements in a seamless way. It also uses humor and satire to make us laugh and think.

What are some of the themes and motifs in the book?

Some of the themes and motifs in "Wizard" are:

  • The power and responsibility of creation. Gaea is a creator who can shape her world according to her whims and desires. She also creates life forms that have their own personalities and free will. However, she is also irresponsible and capricious. She treats her creations as toys or experiments. She does not care about their feelings or needs. She also suffers from boredom and madness.

  • The quest for meaning and happiness. Cirocco, Gaby, Chris, and Robin are all looking for something that will give them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Cirocco wants to escape from her role as the Wizard and find a new direction in life. Gaby wants to express her love for Cirocco and help her overcome her problems. Chris wants to cure his mental illness and find his true self. Robin wants to cure her epilepsy and find her place in the world.

  • The conflict between individuality and conformity. Gaea tries to impose her will and vision on everyone who lives on her world. She expects them to worship her, obey her, and entertain her. She also tries to manipulate them with rewards and punishments. However, some of her creations resist her and rebel against her. They value their autonomy, diversity, and dignity.

  • The role of sex and gender in society. Gaea has a fascination with sex and gender. She experiments with different forms of sexuality and reproduction. She also changes her own gender from time to time. She encourages her creations to explore their sexuality and gender identity. However, she also uses sex and gender as tools of control and domination. She exploits the sexual desires and needs of others. She also imposes gender stereotypes and roles on them.

  • The impact of technology on nature and culture. Gaea is a technological marvel that combines organic and mechanical elements. She is able to create and manipulate matter and energy at will. She also has access to vast amounts of information and knowledge. However, she is also a natural being that is part of the solar system and the universe. She is affected by natural forces and cycles. She also has emotions and instincts.

The Characters

Cirocco Jones: The Wizard of Gaea

Cirocco Jones is the main protagonist of "Wizard". She is a former astronaut who became the Wizard of Gaea after the events in "Titan". She is a tall, muscular, blonde woman who is in her nineties but looks like she is in her thirties thanks to Gaea's rejuvenation process. She is also bisexual and polyamorous.

Cirocco is a brave, smart, loyal, and compassionate person who cares deeply about her friends and the Titanides, a race of musical centaurs that live on Gaea. She is also a skilled fighter, leader, negotiator, and healer. However, she is also an alcoholic, depressed, cynical, and rebellious person who hates her role as the Wizard and resents Gaea for making her life miserable. She is also haunted by the memories of her past failures and losses.

Gaby Plauget: The Engineer and the Lover

Gaby Plauget is Cirocco's best friend and lover. She is also a former astronaut who stayed on Gaea after the events in "Titan". She is a short, plump, brunette woman who is in her eighties but looks like she is in her twenties thanks to Gaea's rejuvenation process. She is also heterosexual and monogamous.

Gaby is a cheerful, optimistic, creative, and adventurous person who loves engineering and exploring new things. She works on various projects for Gaea, such as building a highway around the ringworld or designing new vehicles and devices. She also loves Cirocco deeply and tries to support her in every way possible. However, she is also insecure, naive, impulsive, and stubborn person who sometimes acts without thinking or listening to others. She also has trouble expressing her feelings or asking for help.

Chris Major and Robin the Nine-Fingered: The Pilgrims

Chris Major and Robin the Nine-Fingered are two pilgrims from Earth who seek a cure for their diseases from Gaea. They meet with Gaea in the hub of the ringworld, where she explains that they have to do something heroic to earn their cure. She then drops them through a trap door into the rim of the ringworld, where they encounter many dangers and wonders.

Chris Major is a young man who suffers from psychotic episodes that are often accompanied by paranormal "luck". He can sometimes influence events or outcomes with his mind, but he cannot control it or understand it. He hopes that Gaea can fix his brain or explain his power.

Robin the Nine-Fingered is a young woman who belongs to a group of latter-day witches living in an O'Neill orbital habitat. She has a strange epilepsy that only manifests in gravity higher than the Moon's. She claims that she bit off one of her fingers to drive away the fits, though it is later revealed that she cut it off.

Gaea: The Mad Goddess

The Titanides: The Musical Centaurs

The Titanides are a race of musical centaurs that live on Gaea. They have two sets of genitals, one male and one female, and can switch between them at will. They also have four lungs and four vocal cords, which allow them to sing complex harmonies and melodies. They communicate through music and have a rich and diverse culture.

The Titanides are loyal allies and friends of Cirocco and Gaby. They consider Cirocco as their mother, since she is the only one who can activate their eggs with her saliva. They also admire Gaby for her engineering skills and creativity. They help them in their quest and rebellion against Gaea.

The Plot

The Quest for a Cure

Cirocco, Gaby, Chris, Robin, and four Titanides set out on a heroic trek around the ringworld to earn their cure from Gaea. They face many obstacles and challenges along the way, such as hostile creatures, harsh environments, and Gaea's traps and tricks. They also encounter many wonders and marvels, such as beautiful landscapes, friendly beings, and ancient secrets.

During the journey, they learn more about themselves and each other. They form bonds of friendship, love, and trust. They also discover more about Gaea and her world. They realize that Gaea is not only insane but also dangerous. She has been manipulating and abusing her creations for her own amusement and benefit. She has also been plotting to destroy humanity by unleashing a deadly plague on Earth.

The Rebellion against Gaea

Cirocco and Gaby decide to rebel against Gaea and stop her from carrying out her plan. They enlist the help of the regional brains, which are smaller versions of Gaea that control different parts of the ringworld. They also recruit other allies, such as the Angels, the Zephyrs, the Blimps, and the Zombies.

They launch a coordinated attack on the hub, where Gaea resides. They use various weapons and strategies to overcome Gaea's defenses and minions. They also use their wits and courage to outsmart and confront Gaea herself.

The Battle of the Buzz Bombs

The climax of the book is the battle of the buzz bombs. The buzz bombs are small flying devices that carry a deadly virus that can wipe out all life on Earth. Gaea has hidden them in various locations around the ringworld and plans to launch them when Earth is in alignment with Saturn.

Cirocco and her allies manage to locate and destroy most of the buzz bombs before they can be launched. However, they miss one that is hidden in a movie set that recreates the scene from "The Wizard of Oz" where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow. The buzz bomb is disguised as a crow on a scarecrow's shoulder.

Gaea activates the buzz bomb and sends it flying towards Earth. Cirocco chases after it with her glider, hoping to catch it before it reaches its target. She manages to grab it in mid-air, but it explodes in her hand. She falls into the atmosphere of Saturn, where she is burned alive.

The Conclusion

How does "Wizard" end?

"Wizard" ends with a bittersweet epilogue. Gaby survives the battle and returns to Earth with Chris and Robin, who are cured of their diseases. She also brings with her some Titanide eggs that Cirocco had activated before her death. She hopes to start a new colony of Titanides on Earth.

Gaea is defeated but not destroyed. She retreats into a coma-like state, where she dreams of her past and future. She regrets some of her actions but does not repent or change. She also hints that she might wake up someday and resume her schemes.

Cirocco is dead but not forgotten. She is hailed as a hero by both humans and Titanides. She is also remembered by Gaea, who admits that she loved her in her own twisted way. She also reveals that she has preserved Cirocco's mind in her memory banks, where she can talk to her whenever she wants.

What is the message of the book?

The message of "Wizard" is that life is a complex and unpredictable phenomenon that can be both wonderful and terrible. It is also a message that we have the power and responsibility to shape our own destiny and the destiny of others. We can choose to create or destroy, to love or hate, to cooperate or compete, to learn or ignore. We can also choose to challenge or accept the status quo, to rebel or conform, to change or stagnate.

How does it relate to our world today?

"Wizard" relates to our world today in many ways. It reflects some of the issues and challenges that we face in our society and culture, such as the impact of technology on nature and culture, the role of sex and gender in society, the quest for meaning and happiness, the conflict between individuality and conformity, and the power and responsibility of creation. It also inspires us to imagine and explore new possibilities and realities, to question and challenge our assumptions and prejudices, and to celebrate and respect our diversity and dignity.


Here are some frequently asked questions about "Wizard" by John Varley:

  • Q: Is "Wizard" a standalone book or part of a series? A: "Wizard" is part of a series called the Gaea Trilogy, which also includes "Titan" and "Demon". However, it can be read as a standalone book, as it provides enough background information and summaries of the previous events.

  • Q: What genre is "Wizard"? A: "Wizard" is a science fiction novel that combines elements of fantasy, adventure, humor, romance, and philosophy. It is also a subgenre of science fiction called "big dumb object", which features stories about mysterious and gigantic artificial structures in space.

  • Q: Who is John Varley? A: John Varley is an American writer who was born in 1947. He is best known for his science fiction novels and short stories, which often feature themes such as sexuality, gender, artificial intelligence, alien life forms, and alternate realities. He has won several awards for his work, such as the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Award.

  • Q: Where can I buy or read "Wizard"? A: You can buy or read "Wizard" from various online platforms, such as Amazon, Goodreads, Audible, or Google Books. You can also find it in your local library or bookstore.

  • Q: What are some other books similar to "Wizard"? A: Some other books similar to "Wizard" are:

  • "Ringworld" by Larry Niven, which features a human expedition to a giant ring-shaped structure around a star.

  • "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke, which features a human exploration of a huge cylindrical spaceship that enters the solar system.

  • "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams, which features a humorous and satirical adventure across the galaxy.

  • "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin, which features a human envoy who visits a planet where the inhabitants can change their sex at will.

  • "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin, which features a physicist who travels from an anarchist moon to a capitalist planet.



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