Republished with modification.
Now reviewing science fiction novel by John Varley. Its title: Titan and it is first novel in a trilogy. It is about human expedition to Saturn. There they encounter an artificial satellite that contains unusual organic life forms.
It is not clear who build this satellite or when, though it is quite ancient. It is ruled by entity that is part supercomputer, part organic life form. Her name is Gaea.
She was left in charge of this organic satellite by intelligent beings called Builders. She created all other organic life forms. Interestingly some of them she designed very recently after watching TV broadcasts from Earth. But by the time, Earth expedition arrived to investigate her dominion, her "brain" was split into several semi-autonomous modules, each of them with its own intentions for this satellite.
One creature I liked in this book is a long air-floating intelligent gasbag blimp named Whistlestop. Blimp communicates through whistles and transports other organic creatures across large distances like a dirigible. Some of these small native passengers have a symbiotic relationship with the Blimp. They help Blimp to digest her food.
Still, the book disappoints in the end. This is supposed to be a first contact with alien life forms but book is totally missing that feeling. It could be because human members of this initial expedition are altered by Gaea or her semi-autonomous brain networks.
posted by David UsharauliTweet