Wizard (novel)

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First edition cover (hardcover)
AuthorJohn Varley
Cover artistTony Russo
CountryUnited States
SeriesGaea trilogy
GenreScience fiction
PublisherBerkley Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
LC ClassPS3572.A724 W58
Preceded byTitan 
Followed byDemon 

Wizard is a 1980 science fiction novel by American writer John Varley. It is the second book in his Gaea Trilogy. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Wizard takes place in 2100, seventy-five years after the events in Titan. Cirocco has become an alcoholic, apparently due to the strain of being the Wizard. Gaby Plauget has taken up the slack, carrying out special projects for Gaea such as building the Circum-Gaea Highway, in return for which she gets some of the benefits Cirocco enjoys, including apparently perpetual youth.

Gaea herself is bored. She arranges for streams of people looking for miracle cures to come to her from Earth, and then sets them a task: do something "heroic" (for example, travel once round the circumference of the great wheel), and their wishes will be granted. This is her way of ensuring an enduring supply of entertainment, as she arranges hazards for them to overcome or die trying. It also serves as a way for her to be useful to humanity by providing cures for diseases, so that they do not turn on her and destroy her. Meanwhile, she sits in the hub with her sycophants and watches old movies.

Chris Major and Robin the Nine-Fingered are two such pilgrims. Chris suffers from psychotic episodes which are often accompanied by paranormal "luck". Robin, a member of a group of latter day witches living in an O'Neill orbital habitat, has a strange epilepsy that only manifests itself in gravity higher than the Moon's. She claims that she bit off one of her fingers to drive away the fits, though it is later revealed she cut it off. On leaving Gaea, both are subjected to Gaea's near-fatal practical joke, being dropped through one of the spokes of the wheel-shaped habitat, taking about an hour to fall to the rim, reaching a high but survivable terminal velocity in the dense atmosphere. Robin experiences this, but is rescued by one of the Angels who live in the spokes. This Angel is sexually attracted to humans, to Robin's horror. Chris blacks out and his "luck" causes him to survive. His next memory is of the Titanide festival. It is implied that he fell onto one of the blimps that travel around the rim.

With Gaby, Cirocco and four Titanides they set out on a heroic trek. Gaby and Cirocco have a hidden agenda: they want to canvass the regional brains in order to overthrow Gaea, whom they see as being irretrievably insane.

During the trip, the reader begins to learn what drove Cirocco to her alcoholism. As the price for the discontinuation of the Angel/Titanide War, Gaea has made the Titanides dependent on Cirocco to have children. Only her saliva can activate the eggs they produce, so that they can be implanted in a host mother to grow. The responsibility for an entire race's survival is more than Cirocco can bear; with resignation from her position as Wizard impossible and suicide ruled out by her love for the Titanides, her only release is alcohol-fueled oblivion.

The hazards of the trip include buzz-bombs, living creatures with pulsejet engines that live high up on the support cables. They attack living beings, including humans and Titanides, attempting to capture them as food, and present a particular threat to pilgrims with their barbed noses and razor-sharp wings. Slowly the journey reduces the crew, killing first one of the Titanides and then, in an attack plotted by the crazed crewmember Gene, Gaby, too, is killed. All are separated. Cirocco and her Titanide companion Hornpipe are left on the Rim surface, while Robin and Chris are trapped underground, with the Titanide Valiha, who is not only pregnant but has been badly injured. Eventually Robin has to leave Chris to tend Valiha, and climb back to the surface for help. She finds herself in one of the Arctic cold zones of the habitat, and almost dies before being rescued.

Cirocco undergoes a complete transformation. She musters her considerable powers to rescue all the remaining expedition members. Robin and Chris go to confront Gaea, only to be told she has cured them anyway, and they can get lost. Robin discovers that Gaea has also restored her missing finger. Cirocco also confronts Gaea, who offers to restore Gaby to life. Cirocco considers this, but realizes that the result would be a puppet of Gaea. She kills the body Gaea had been using to talk to people with bullets, then burns it. As Gaea is in reality an intelligence living in the hub, itself, the death of this body does not kill her; but it is Cirocco's way of resigning. Hereinafter, she is no longer the Wizard; she is the Demon. She escapes by falling through a spoke, to be rescued by her friends the Angels. Gaea's response is to bombard the rim with the cathedrals that she had been replicating with human help.


  1. ^ "1981 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-26.

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