Demon (novel)

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Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author John Varley
Country United States
Language English
Series Gaea Trilogy
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Berkley Books
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 464 pp
ISBN 0-399-12945-6
OCLC 10558373
813/.54 19
LC Class PS3572.A724 D4 1984
Preceded by Wizard

Demon is a science fiction novel by American writer John Varley, published in 1984. The third and final book in his Gaea Trilogy, it was nominated to the Locus Award.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Demon takes place in the years 2113 through 2121, thirteen to twenty-one years after the events of Wizard. Cirocco Jones has become a combination fugitive and resistance leader, staying alive in spite of the forces of Gaea by virtue of her unusual abilities, and with the help of friends and allies. These include the race of Titanides, who remain loyal to the Captain, as they call Jones, rather than to Gaea; and the race of Angels, who call her the Wing Commander. The militant creations of Gaea, once limited to the buzz-bombs, have expanded to include horrifying beings called Priests, each one made by Gaea from parts of her human victims. The Priests, named after significant religious figures from the past, carry out her dirty work as a class of undead field commanders, supported by bands of zombies. These are made from the corpses of humans who die in the wheel and — unless cremated — become infested with creatures called deathsnakes and arise to walk again as zombies.


The increasingly demented and film-obsessed Gaea has replaced the Avatar that Jones destroyed at the end of Wizard with a new one, a 50-foot-tall (15 m) replica of Marilyn Monroe. She spends her time in a travelling film festival of her own making, called Pandemonium, where she is attended by various humans, zombies, and many bizarre creatures of her own creation, such as living film cameras.

Earth meanwhile is in the grip of a slow nuclear war, possibly started by Gaea herself. Some survivors are rescued by mysterious pods called mercy flights that bring them to Gaea. They are cured of all their physical ills, and then, still mentally damaged, dumped in the twilight city of Bellinzona, an anarchic place run by criminals. All this means that humankind's future is now in the wheel, and at the mercy of its senile ruler.

More of Gaea's earlier plotting comes to light when it is revealed that all the captured Ringmaster crew were fitted with a parasitic, worm-like spy right inside their brains, which broadcast their every thought and perception to Gaea. Records of all these experiences and perceptions have been kept in the hub and nerve-center of the habitat — as a result of which Gaby's personality has survived her physical death, and she now exists as a rogue intelligence. She is able to communicate with Cirocco, and together they hatch plans for the future of the wheel. Cirocco's own brain parasite is extracted by a Titanide surgeon and imprisoned in a jar. Nicknamed Snitch, it is both a creature in its own right, which can talk, feel pain, and apparently recover from any injury, and is a part of Gaea's fragmented and disintegrating mind. As such, it becomes a source of information on her schemes, which Cirocco ruthlessly exploits through a mixture of torture and bribery: Snitch has emerged from her alcohol-addled brain with an addiction to liquor.

Chris Major has stayed in Gaea, where he is mutating into a Titanide. Robin of the Coven had returned to her people in the interim, and now returns to Gaea, along with her two children: a 19-year-old daughter named Nova, and an infant son, Adam. Having a son is anathema in her female-only community. It is revealed that the children were not planned, but are offspring of herself and Chris, owing to genetic material somehow planted in her when she last was on Gaea and triggered to implant at later times.

Robin, along with her children, is reunited with Chris and Cirocco, whereupon the distraught Nova immediately develops a crush on Cirocco. They also meet a friend and lieutenant of Cirocco's, Conal, originally a none-too-bright bodybuilder from Canada and a descendent of Ringmaster crew member Gene.

After a short period of peace, Gaea's agents kidnap Adam. Cirocco becomes aware that the infant boy shares her ability to activate Titanide eggs, and therefore represents the race's future, as well as a means of controlling them. Gaea has apparently arranged his birth so he can be Cirocco's successor, and his kidnapping to force her into a confrontation. After a failed rescue attempt by the group, Chris decides to take his chances by surrendering to Pandemonium, so that he can be near Adam.

Some months pass while Cirocco's forces regroup and make a new plan. Now desperate to recover Adam, who is beginning to see Gaea as a mother figure, Cirocco uses her influence among the Titanides to conquer Bellinzona, imposing law and order with the intent of eventually raising an army to attack Pandemonium. In time, through her unusual mixture of charisma and ruthlessness, she manages to transform the inhabitants' disorganized chaos into a genuine community.

When Cirocco finally launches her attack, she has to guide nearly 40,000 human soldiers and several thousand Titanides some 600 kilometers across the wheel, while fending off attacks from the Gaean Air Force, the successors to the old buzz-bombs. These new creatures are armed with rocket bullets, missiles, and bombs, forcing Cirocco to enlist the Angels in a preemptive strike to help destroy the GAF's refueling bases.

When the army finally reaches Pandemonium, Cirocco's attack is a mixture of display and deadly force. Whistlestop the blimp, with the aged and dying Calvin inside, attempts to immolate Gaea in a Hindenburg-like blaze. Eventually Gaea is lured out of the city, enabling part of the army to rescue Adam while Cirocco and Gaea face off. At that moment Gene, old and addled, and living next to one of the former regional brains, sets off the final blow (instigated by Gaby) by destroying one of Gaea's major nerve-centers. Gaea is disoriented enough for Gaby to force her out of the hub, leading to the destruction of the giant Marilyn Monroe avatar in a scene reminiscent of the climactic battle in King Kong. The last fragment of Gaea's mind, in the shape of Snitch, dies in Cirocco's hand. Gaby, now the new divinity of the wheel, reveals to Cirocco that Gaea was in fact an entity distinct from it and that those changes of 'management' are a regular occurrence in the enormously long life-cycle of those entities. All the plotting perpetrated by Gaea throughout the trilogy was aimed at securing her demise and replacement in a manner entertaining and flamboyant enough to suit her. Gaby invites Cirocco to share the position with her, but the former Wizard declines, choosing instead to simply live free for the first time in nearly a century. As she ponders her new and free future, she wonders what she will do next. She leans over, falling from the top of the spoke toward the ground 600 kilometers below, leaving her fate to chance — she is now finally free to live only for herself.


  1. ^ "1985 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 

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