37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Incredible World Creation and Exciting Adventures,
This review is from: Titan (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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Initial post: Sep 3, 2014 6:02:52 PM PDT
Walter Wright says:
good review, but to be fussy, this new living "world" is not the moon Titan, and doesn't look anything like a natural satellite; the title is referencing other things in the story. it takes place far enough in the future that our technology has a pretty good grip on the solar system's moons and their composition.
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