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Titan (Gaea)
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Gaea Trilogy traces the arc of a hero's ascent, fall from grace and redemption. So if you like "Titan," the ride just gets better from here.
Having said that, why should you pick up "Titan?" Isn't this the same book as "Rendezvous with Rama?" Well, yes and no. The book is about astronauts exploring the environment inside an alien space station. But from there, the core concept is all filtered through the mind of John Varley.
Beyond being a straight exploration story, Varley also discusses issue of women in power, homosexuality vs. heterosexuality, altenate breeding relationships for alien species (nothing you can possibly imagine) and some fun with the science of angels. And, of course, it's here that Varley begins his deepest exploration between man and God, although to say more would be to give away too much of the book.
First and foremost, though, "Titan" is an adventure story of the highest caliber, with a heroic lead, weird creatures, alien settings, a warm heart and a very sharp mind. (And it's a mind not nearly as dirty as some of the reviewers are complaining that it is. If you live in America in the 21st century, you'll likely find the book fairly tame sexually.)
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book (and the other two in the series Wizard and Demon) in the early 80s as a teenager. I bought them at the time based primarily on the comparison to the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. I was a Herbert fan, and wanted more excitement in a similar vein. Of course there is not nearly the depth of socio-political, philosophical core as there is in the Herbert novels, but the world Varley creates is as fantastic and new and exciting as anything in Dune.
Cirroco Jones and her crew are sent on a mission to explore the moons of Jupiter, and when they approach the moon Titan, they make an amazing discovery: Titan is not a moon, but what appears to be a gigantic space station in the shape of a wheel. The discovery of what is the actual nature of the wheel is the whole point of the book, and early in the book, the natural defenses of the wheel grab Cirroco's ship and crew out of space. They essentially get absorbed into the machine, only to be "reborn" on the inside of the machine. Each of the crew goes through a metamorphosis in this re-birth, not all survive, some transformed for the better, some transformed with psychoses or neuroses. And along the way they discover a myriad of fantastical creatures much out of mythology, like a race of centaurs, angels, and more than I can go into much detail about.
This book is a prime example of what science fiction used to do: tell a compelling story, keep you guessing at what all the details of the universe are (you'll have to read Wizard and Demon, the two sequels to find out all the truth about this world the humans call "Titan") and is well edited, that is, it is not an overblown novel stretched out to some 700 or 800 + pages the way many writers do these days. What ever happened to conciseness? Well, Varley is concise, precise, and very entertaining.
I read it recently after almost two decades, as I still have the original paperbacks I bought in the 80s. As an adult, I can now see that there are a few things that I missed as a budding teenager. Yes, I thought back then that it was great to have the main character be a woman, and the co-star is also a female character. There are other female characters at the "core" of the novel as well that I will let the reader discover. Cirroco Jones was a progressive woman who took her sexual encounters for what they were and nothing more: part of life's daily pleasures. What an inspiration: Sexual freedom! No hang-ups about it. The trip to Jupiter is a long journey, so yes, she'll sleep with more than one of the male crew along the way. People are human and have human needs. Revolution! Woohoo! Go Varley! I think we could use a booster shot of these kinds of attitudes. Those who complain about rampant sex throughout the book really must have never read any real erotic fiction. This is not erotic fiction, this is science fiction with a healthy dose of reality throughout.
But as an adult now in my mid thirties, I do see that the young hero I saw in Cirroco Jones was not so much a liberated woman, but merely a female character who acted like all of the male characters you'd read about in every other book out there on the market (and still do today.) There is surprisingly little real feminine energy driving this "female" lead. But that only becomes an issue in enjoying the book if you are looking for a feminist journey. The trials and challenges she faces are real and exciting.
John Varley is just an excellent storyteller. His narrative is enjoyable, the escapades of the characters are exciting, and the visualization of the world is 100% (or more) complete. You really want for each of the characters to get what they desire, even though their desires don't all coincide as possible or reciprocal.. There is a core value about individuality and identity that permeates this series, something that hints at our suppression of who we really are and creates for some the ability to go through a transforming process, to follow our true hearts about who we really are. There is a belief that we can escape our self-perpetuated oppressions if we have faith in that belief and make effort to be true to ourselves.
Ignore all of the bad reviews and read these award winning novels. The series may just change your lives and open new doors for you. There is a world out there that accepts you for who you are and values your own unique qualities. Hope and acceptance. What more could one ask for?
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book several years ago and it has become the standard for which I base innovative SF. I have read everything that John Varley has written since. His works seems to have common themes- a near future distopia, bio manipulation, and strong female characters are only some of them. "Titan" was the first in the series with "Wizard" and "Demon" following. Sigorney Weaver's Ripley in "Alien" must've been modeled after Titan's Cirroco Jones. I thought, "Some one's been reading Varley", when I first read Foster's novelization of "Alien". Varley has just the right mix of speculative and provocative fiction that are appealing to me as an open and imaginative reader. Varley's "Persistance of Vision" is one of my all time favorite short story series.I am thrilled to see anything new from John Varley.I was excited about reading his newer novels, "Steel Beach","The Golden Globe" and his latest "Red Thunder". Despite what any of the reviewers have said in these reviews, "Titan" remains at the top of my all time favorites. If you can't get this book at Amazon look for it elsewhere. As a long time bibliophile with broad and eclectic reading experience, I still say..Varley Rules!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this on the recommendation of a friend and to be honest, I had a few reservations. All the descriptions of the book, including those here on amazon.com sounded a little hoky and a little weird. I said I would eat my hat if I loved the book. In time I was duly forced to get out the salt and pepper and get torn in to my trilby. This is a massively enjoyable book that is an exercise in imagination beyond imagination. For those looking for a more concrete idea of what Titan is about and how good it is then look no further than Larry Niven's Ringworld or A World Out of Time. It's drawn from exactly the same vein as those two classics. Varley has let his imagination run wild while still retaining suspension of disbelief. To those who claim this book is not SF then I would challenge you to point out exactly where. This is no less SF than the aforementioned Niven classics and as a fan of hard SF than is a strong recommendation in its favour. Varley writes with a terrific style, being easy to read and maintaining a breakneck pace, never once lulling into middle-book periods of tedium that seem to plague some novels. Having read this book, having been proved wrong and having enjoyed it immensely I can't recommend this book strongly enough to anyone with a mind for SF or good fantasy for that matter. If you like the aforementioned Niven books then why haven't you bought this earlier? My only regret is not discovering it sooner. Now, anyone know where I can get a copy of Wizard and Demon? :o)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read the Gaean trilogy as a teenager, more years ago than I want to admit. Whenever I find myself in the book aisle staring at the covers of all the sci-fi books and wondering what happened to Original Thought... I go back home and read Varley's trilogy again. And every time I return to Gaea, I discover something new that my younger eyes missed.
Varley's style is similar to Heinlein in that he was light-years ahead of the social culture he wrote in, but I think even Heinlein would be completely blown away by some of the imagery and new morality described in Varley's books!
Varley creates a fantasy world which is none-the-less completely believable, with a pandora's box of characters including whale-like creatures filled with helium that float through the sky, centaur-like beings that give a whole new meaning to "free love" and terrifying denizens of the air that soar down to rip and shred their victims.
As Varley's human characters make their way through this stunning and sometimes brutal backdrop, we delve into the phsychological and physiological effects this harsh yet beautiful world has on them, we watch them evolve and in some cases, we see them de-volve.
If you are ready for a completely mind-blowing experience that will stretch the outer boundaries of your imagination, I highly suggest reading Titan, Wizard and Demon.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I first read this book when I was in sixth grade, then a few years ago I managed to track it down again. I'm glad I did, as this is one of those books that can be appreciated on several different levels. At 11, I was more interested in the descriptions of the fairy-tale aliens, while reading it now, I can appreciate the dynamics between all the characters, the science behind the fiction, and a terrific first-contact story.

A small space exploration stumbles across a fantastic satellite orbiting Saturn. A massive, hollow wheel, 1300 kilometers across, it sucks them inside an incredible, artificial alien world. Captain Cirocco Jones reunites her crew after their crash landing, and they begin to travel around the inside of the wheel - which they name Gaea - in search of a way home. They meet the citizens of Gaea, who are familiar and yet utterly alien. (They include winged humanoids and centaurs.)

Eventually, Cirocco and her friend Gaby make the grueling 600 Km vertical journey up one of the spokes of the wheel to the hub, where they meet the God of Gaea and learn some very interesting things about this alien "planet".

John Varley has done his science homework, which allows you to relax and quit worrying about the "How did they..?" questions that invariable crop up in any sci-fi book. The characters, while not always likable, are well-drawn and human (or not), and the changes they each go through while on Gaea raise thought-provoking questions about the effect of a powerful alien intelligence upon our own - and about our effect on the aliens.

I'd rate it PG-13, for a rape scene, implied incest and other sexual references, as well as some mildly disturbing violence. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first time I read John Varley (and perhaps the first time I read Science Fiction) it was when I bought Demon, the last episode of the Gea trilogy by mistake. Imagine me with 15 ears old trying to read something so strange as Demon, which I think is the strongest episode of the Gaea trilogy. In the beginning I was almost giving up to read the book but I must confess that when I finished it I read it more 2 times, I bought Titan and Wizard and read all the trilogy more 3 or 4 times.
Its amazing how John Varley is able to construct a so strange universe and keep it consistent, every time that I make another read I find something new, a detail that I didn't notice.
Now I'm 26 years old and I'm aungry to read more of Varley, I'm just waiting for Portuguese editions of the other books.
I hope that some day somebody try to make a movie of the trilogy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Varley's Gaian series gave me an adrenalin surge unsurpassed as of yet in all my eighteen years of reading science fiction. This is the purest fun you could have reading, and I believe it's one of the finest science fiction series ever published. My hands might as well have caught fire when I read this! I read this over sixteen years ago, and I still count it among my top five reads, of any kind, EVER. And my personal top ten book list includes UBIK by Philip K. Dick, Varley, Tolkien, Stephen King's Night Shift and The Mist!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read the Gaia trilogy about eight years ago, in college, and was drawn to reread it this past month. I bought the paperback editions and they were just as a remembered, with maps in the beginning, etc. Titan is the most sci-fi of the three, beginning with many details of the interior of a space vehicle and the journey to the moons of Saturn. Titan most resembles an adventure story where the heroine (Cirocco Jones) goes on a quest to discover the nature of Gaia (which they call Titan when they first encounter it). This book introduces some of the characters to be found in the other two books, and begins to hint at some of the deeper plots found in the other two books in the trilogy. If you're going to order this book, you'll want to get Wizard and Demon as well, so you can read the whole trilogy. I highly recommend this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
_Titan_ is a good novel of its own right, but leave you hanging in a big way. I'd reccomend getting at least _Wizard_ in addition, which takes the characters to the next stange of their journey.
I hadn't read any hard sci-fi for a few years when I picked this up recently, and found it absorbing and fascinating. Varley doesn't get too hung up on jargon, and instead focuses on the amazing mechanics of Gaia, and the portrayal of his dynamic characters.
A very good read, but not essential.
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