Demon by John Varley

Demon by John Varley (Italian edition)
Demon by John Varley (Italian edition)

The novel “Demon” by John Varley was published for the first time in 1984. It’s the third novel in the trilogy of Gaea and is the sequel to “Wizard“.

In the years after leaving Gaea’s service, Cirocco Jones started organizing resistance against the dominator of the artificial habitat. Some of the species that inhabit it allied with Cirocco but must they also face new creatures because Gaea, who in the meantime created a new avatar that looks like Marilyn Monroe, has her plans.

On Earth, World War V started, a nuclear war that quickly caused the deaths of billions of people. Those events have their weight also in the clash between Cirocco Jones and Gaea. The day of reckoning is approaching and Robin returns to the habitat to be reunited with Cirocco. She brrings with her two children: Nova, which now is 19, and the newborn Adam, a very special child and a male, not accepted in Robin’s community of feminist extremist. Among the new Cirocco’s allies there’s also Conal, a descendant of one of the crew of Cirocco’s starship.

“Demon” starts more than a decade after “Wizard”. Cirocco Jones abandoned her role of Wizard and has become Gaea’s main antagonist. Overthrowing her rule on the space habitat isn’t simple and requires long-term planning.

Gaea has lived very long but his mental state is increasingly altered. She built herself a new avatar that looks like Marilyn Monroe and is more and more obsessed with movies. She’s far from infallibe but she still has ongoing long-term plans. However, Cirocco Jones has also learned something about the subject.

The first part of “Demon” is rather slow and aims to explain what happened in the last few years with World War V, the return of Robin with her children and other events. As well as reprising the stories of the characters who appeared in the previous novels, it introduces new ones: Nova and Adam, Robin’s children, but also Conal, a descendant of Eugene Springfield, one of the crew of the spaceship Cirocco Jones .

In my opinion this initial part is the main problem of the novel. There are many events that are told in a way that makes them seem summaries of previous stories, as if there was another novel before “Demon”. There are many old and new characters and their stories updates or introductions and that makes this part fragmented too. The consequence is that the first hundred pages or so of the novel are quite heavy to read.

Another problem is that not only the relationship among the old characters are evolving but there are also new relationships with new characters to further complicate the story. “Demon” is definitely the longest novel in the Gaea trilogy but at least part of these relationships end up being told only superficially. The development of the new characters also remains limited: for example Conal is introduces as a boy who’s a bit of a sucker but in the rest of the novel is already much brighter and we know little of his wising up.

The novel improves after the first part. As in the previous novels, there’s a long journey inside the habitat but is much more than a simple quest since Cirocco Jones her allies’ goal is to overthrow Gaea. John Varley has been often compared to Robert A. Heinlein and especially in the part of “Demon” set in Bellinzona you can see  political, social and religious reflections that recall the great master.

The novel’s pace accelerates from what is called “Second feature”. There is more and more more action as you get closer to the final showdown between Cirocco Jones and Gaea. John Varley seems to have had in mind movies not only concerning Gaea’s obsession but also in telling with his usual fantasy the war that becomes open between the two factions. They could produce a successful movie if in “Demon” there wasn’t so much sex.

In the end “Demon” is a novel that in my opinion is too long with various merits but also structural flaws. Overall, I found it pretty good and gives a conclusion to the trilogy but it seemed to me not as good as the previous two. Read it if you want to know how the story ends.

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