Thursday, May 30, 2013

John Varley – The Gaea Trilogy




I am totally thrown of balance to discover that the third book in the trilogy is missing. We took all the books off one of the floor to ceiling stacks a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t the person who replaced them. I know the book is here, in the house, I just don’t know where. I have hunted, but not as thoroughly as necessary. It will turn up.

Doubly thrown off balance. Just went to look at Varley’s website to calm myself down – found his list of read books. It almost exactly mirrors a large part of my own bookshelf. Okay, he’s short on 19th century literature, Russian and French short stories in translation and garden books but … well, let’s take a look.

John Varley read:

HEMINGWAY'S CHAIR by Michael Palin – nope

GLITZ by Elmore Leonard – nope, but I read a lot of Leonard

THE BOYFRIEND by Thomas Perry (not yet, but I am possibly the biggest Perry fan in the UK, it’s on my wishlist when I get some cash)

A CASE OF NEED by Michael Crichton – nope – but I have a lot of Crichton on my shelves

AH, TREACHERY! by Ross Thomas - nope

HARK! by Ed McBain - yup

WODEHOUSE ON CRIME by D.R. Bensen – not this edition but there ain’t not nothin’ Wodehouse I ain’t read!

GUILT by Jonathan Kellerman - yup

SUSPECT by Robert Crais - yup

THE BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART by Lawrence Block - yup

THE RIPTIDE ULTRA-GLIDE by Tim Dorsey - nope

THE BIG BAMBOO by Tim Dorsey - nope

BOWL OF HEAVEN by Greg Benford and Larry Niven – yup

THE TEMPLE OF GOLD by William Goldman - yup

THE BIG PICTURE by William Goldman - yup

TELEGRAPH AVENUE by Michael Chabon – nope, but it’s only my list

NOCTURNE by Ed McBain - yup

THE FOURTH DURANGO by Ross Thomas - nope

FATHER'S DAY by William Goldman - nope

SLEIGHT OF HAND by Kate Wilhelm - nope

A WRONGFUL DEATH by Kate Wilhelm - nope

THE TORTILLA CURTAIN by T.C. Boyle - yup

TALK TALK by T.C. Boyle – yup, and it’s a big fat keeper to come on this blog

SUNSTROKE by Jesse Kellerman – nope but I read Jonathan and Faye Kellerman until I was cured of my Kellerman Jones about three years ago.

I find that spooky – in a good way.

So, Demon, Wizard and Titan – the Gaea Trilogy. There’s world-building and world-building. Is Varley the Best Writer in America as Tom Clancy says? I don’t know. Is the best world-building writer ever? In my view he’s up there with Ray Bradbury, Ursula K le Guin, Brian Aldiss and Frank Herbert – and that’s prestigious company to keep.

I was stunned by the complexity of Varley’s female characters at a time when little sf or even sff had women in it, even one dimensional women. There was Le Guin, of course, and Octavia Butler and Anne McCaffrey but they were lone voices, each clear and true but each singing a solo part in a different hemisphere of the science fiction/fantasy universe. Against them was ranged a mass choir of bloke fiction. And then there was Varley. Gods bless him.

Rocky (Cirocco) Jones is a real heroine, bloody, flawed and believable. The world in which she finds herself (a hollow torus habitat created by a world-building creature: Gaea) is unbelievable, but at each incredible turn, Varley pulls the skew-whiff sense of surrealism back to a bedrock starting point. It’s very simple; Gaea adapted her world to what she learned of ours. However nasty the surprises, Rocky and her companions have humanity to thank for them.

It’s dazzling, it’s funny, it’s thought-provoking, it has a sixty foot tall Marilyn Monroe … it’s clearly a keeper!

2 comments:

Craig said...

Wow - this brings back memories. In college I became obsessed with this trilogy - just wonderful books. I remember staying up most of the night reading, Demon. I had a project due the next morning, but I couldn't stop reading. Ended up getting a D or something lower. But I still remember that night in perfect clarity.

Kay Sexton said...

Oh yes, here in the UK it took me a year and a bit (over 12 months!) to get hold of a copy of Demon ... this was in the days before the interwebs, of course. I was OBSESSED with finding that third book and when I got it, well... nobody got any sense out of me until I'd finished it.