Demon by John Varley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For the most part, I absolutely love this trilogy. On the idea front, it's wild with some of the coolest and strangest story combinations, from a life-as-a-movie-set to an intentionally perverse Greek Mythos setup to the enormous annihilation of humanity in the Fifth Nuclear War (some twenty years after book 2), to the fact that we're on an all-out trip to overthrow a god here on the artificial moon.
Cirocco Jones is something around a hundred and twenty years old at this point and she's completely turned on Gaia who seems to be going batshit crazy. If you don't believe me, check out her children, her affair with King Kong as a 50 ft Marylin Monroe, or her myriad lies or new fascinations. She's been around a long time. She's also a fan of the human culture. Hell, I like Gaia because she's a big fan of movie monsters and science fiction epics and doesn't mind playing around with all the creations in the world to fill her whims. Cirocco Jones should have been her wizard and go-between, but a lot of that sours because of that little demon that was put in her (and others') heads. It's easy to do anything and go completely crazy as a god. Especially if you're not.
Hints and oddities aside, not to mention outright spoilers, the outright strangeness and world-building of these novels are absolutely amazing. I can't do them justice in twenty pages of lists of creatures or alien oddities, and they're all great, even the ones built off of our own science fiction past. The god is a fan, as is the author, and this, more than anything, makes me want to scream and jump and shout at everyone to say, "Hey, this shit is BRILLIANT, Yo!"
I didn't even have a problem with the fundamental story this time. It has gotten better and the shape of everything from the first to the third novel has become something rather awesome.
So why didn't I give it a full 5 star? Or the rest of them, for that matter?
I was annoyed. I really don't care whether authors like to go all out with atheism or not in their text. It doesn't bother me. I actually found the undead Martin Luthers (not Jr.) spouting their undead religion rather funny. I didn't even find the intellectual (and wild) creation of the Titanides' sexual congress too much. It was fascinating to learn about, with time.
I suppose what bothered me was the heavy (and I mean heavy) focus on sex and sexuality. I'm not particularly prudish or anything and I've read romance novels that can make any maiden aunt blush, but the way it is explored in these novels was SF, idea-exploring, theoretically uplifting and often squirm-inducing. It ran the whole course, from humans becoming Titanides with three sex organs to the oddities of the Amazonians to normal couples to monster sex. And he's trying to make deep points and make logical and heart-felt leaps... and none of it quite hits the mark.
If the sex had been just a sideline part of the novel, this might not have been much of an issue for me. As it was, sex, sex, sex was a huge part of the narrative, conflict, and deep discussion of all three novels. And let me be clear: little of it was meant to titillate or amuse or get us hot as readers. It's weird how I might even have forgiven *that* more than what actually happened.
I'm not saying it's not worthwhile, however, and some readers might be a lot more forgiving in their final estimation than me. And then others might just perform a handwavium exercise and forgive it all because the rest is truly a fantastic work of the imagination. :)
I was tempted. I really was. I almost did the handwavium thing. :) But the balance was off. It was *almost* perfect, but that flaw *was* just a bit too much.
I still recommend this book even with such caveats. It's a fun and easy read for all that, but above all, it's wild with ideas and imagery and a lot of the actual writing is pretty brilliant in its descriptions.
I'm quite willing to put this up there with some of the biggest SF classics of all time even as I grumble about the parts that annoy me. The weight of the good far far outweighs the bad. :)
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