The novel “Wizard” by John Varley was published for the first time in 1980. It is the second novel in the Gaea trilogy and is the sequel of “Titan“.
Seventy-five years after the arrival on the Gaea habitat along with her crew, Cirocco Jones is an alcoholic because she can’t bear the responsibility resulting from her deal with Gaea. Gaby Plauget carries out most of the work on behalf of Gaea, who through her ambassadors on Earth selects people who come to her habitat to perform heroic deeds in exchange for healing incurable diseases.
Chris Major suffers from occasional blackouts during which he does things he can’t remember at all. Robin comes from a space colony inhabited only by extremist feminists and came to a place where there are also males only because she hopes that the form of epilepsy that afflicts her gets cured.
“Wizard” is set on Gaea, the extraordinary living habitats found in the novel “Titan” by Cirocco Jones and her crew. Several decades have passed since the adventures of the first novel so in theory you can read the second independently. By doing so, however, it’s more difficult to understand the complexity of Gaea and the changes in Cirocco Jones and Gaby Plauget.
Following her discovery, Gaea has established friendly relations with humans, also because she’s aware that she couldn’t survive a nuclear strike. One important reason is the possibility that people come from the Earth and the human space colonies in search of a cure for diseases that are incurable for human medicine but not for Gaea.
For decades Gaea has captured human radio and television broadcasts, which are a good remedy against boredom but it’s even better to have humans in her habitat attempting to perform heroic deeds. The various regions of Gaea are controlled by local intelligence but some of them have rebelled therefore travelling within it can be very dangerous but there are those who are willing to try in exchange for the cure for a disease.
The Gaea habitat is full of strange creatures and John Varley used typical fantasy elements in “Titan” but it’s actually a pure science fiction story. Gaea is considered a goddess but her powers are derived from a highly advanced knowledge of biology that allows her to create centaurs and the other species that fill her habitat through genetic engineering and the healing of the heroes is far from miraculous.
Cirocco Jones has become the Wizard, with an important job on behalf of Gaea, but again it’s not about magic. Her responsibility had serious consequences on Cirocco’s mental state and she has become an alcoholic. Despite her problems, in “Wizard” she starts a new journey together with Chris and Robin, two would-be heroes who seek a cure for their illnesses.
Cirocco Jones was the protagonist of “Titan” so the novel was told from her point of view, instead in “Wizard” the point of view is split between the various characters, starting with Chris and Robin. Both suffer from diseases that for some periods make them lose control so for them healing isn’t only a matter of health but also of control over their actions and their own lives.
In “Wizard” the theme of the quest becomes even more central than in “Titan”. The pilgrimage of Chris and Robin changes both of them because they’re put in completely new situations that force them to see themselves and their lives in a different perspective. For Cirocco and Gaby, who started the journey with very different plans, there are unexpected changes too.
Again, in “Wizard” the sexual component is strong but if you’ve read “Titan” either this element doesn’t bother you or you better not read its sequel. In this novel Titanide sexuality and reproduction are important but also sexual relationships between Titanides and humans.
“Wizard” has its own ending that also contains the basis for the third novel in the Gaea trilogy. If you enjoyed “Titan” you’ll love this sequel too because it succeds in further developing the story and characters of the first novel.