Titan by John Varley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Titan is a rather surprising and accomplished find among ANY SF collection. There's a lot of imagination and world-building stuffed in these pages. I'd say it's better than Farmer's Riverworld series, but since I hadn't read them all, I can't say for sure.
Here are the really cool bits: Varley literally builds a world with a vast intelligence playing god within it. I was reminded of Bear's Eon at first until I realized that Titan came first and the whole tunnel of alternate dimensions doesn't show in Titan, either. :)
BUT when it comes to sheer adventure and exploration and learning about the modified intelligent creatures within it, Titan wins the contest hands down. I was already hooked by the Saturn expedition even with the whole 70's sex focus (which got old pretty quick), but everything else surrounding it, even the cocaine addiction, did wonders for getting my interest high. Cirocco Jones is a rather interesting female captain. After things go to hell and the strangeness begins, I'm all behind the rest of the novel.
I'm of two minds about the end. One part of me was all nuts over the SF and Fantasy homages. I really got all giddy over the way Varley incorporated everything and the twist at the end were just so delicious that it turned this damn solid worldbuilding hard-SF novel into a popcorn read.
And the very same twist and incorporation of nerdiness kinda threw me for a loop.
I almost wanted more mystery and a much more complicated reveal rather than a gimmie *oh that's cool* crowdpleaser. There was already so much going on. It almost feels cheap.
And yet, I loved it and it makes me yearn for the next book! Oh, the conflict.
Even so, everything about this was pretty jaw-dropping and gorgeous and the whole idea is made all the more delicious because it's fully realized and focused. It has more reveals than Rama, more intelligent life than Eon, and enough nerdy entertainment to fill three books of lesser quality. :)
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