JACK THE BODILESS
Julian May

 


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First of the Galactic Milieu Trilogy
Ballantine Books, Reissue May 1993
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Science Fiction

Grand Master Marc Remillard is summoned by his little brother from days away across the galaxy, and he obeys. Marc is thirteen years old, but his mind powers are so strong he thought no one could coerce him Ė until Jack. Jack isnít even born yet. Unless Marc can help, he may never be born.

A genetic assay shows Jack has so many lethal genes his body would be hopelessly ill, and if the Government has its way, he will be aborted as soon as he is discovered. Marc is determined that a mind as strong as Jackís must survive. He thinks that logic, not love for Jack and his mother, rules his choice.

Marc, his mother Teresa, and their Uncle Rogi are risking the death penalty by hiding the pregnancy. The reason they hope to survive is that the harsh alien government is scheduled to end before Jack is born, and humans are due to take over their own governance. The father of Marc and Jack, Paul Remillard, is expected to be elected First Magnate of the new government; all six of Paulís brothers and sisters have been named among the new Hundred Magnates. Far from sympathizing with Theresaís pregnancy, though, this talented, ambitious family is severely embarrassed by the felonies of their kin.

Jackís illegal conception isnít even the worst of it. Someone among the Remillards is conducting a campaign to kill people who endanger the high Remillard destiny. Somehow, during the death of Rogiís nephew Victor (whose crimes are detailed in INTERVENTION), a mental entity calling itself Fury has been born, and it has attached itself as an undetectable second personality to one of the Remillards. It has devoted slaves, collectively known as Hydra, who do the actual killing. As long as no one knows who is carrying Fury, none of the most powerful Remillards can be trusted. The political implications could be deadly. But for some unknown reason the Lylmik, the overlords of the Galactic Milieu, unwaveringly protect the Remillards.

Dominating this story is Jack. There are so many people with personal and political issues about Jackís existence that we donít get to his birth until two-thirds of the way through the book, but he is too impressive to be forgotten. We participate in his in utero education, his relations with Teresa and Rogi as they wait in hiding for the time when they can reveal themselves, and his reactions to ďoutsidersĒ searching for them. It is all brilliantly imagined. I felt there was a bit too much philosophical exposition in the conversations between Jack and his mother, but there is humor, too. It tickles my funnybone to read a long, closely reasoned but naÔve evaluation ending in ďsaid the fetus.Ē

This tone of naÔvety is about the only thing that reminds us we are dealing with a child. Jack and Marc are both youngsters Ė towering intellects doing their best to relate in a society not designed for them. Except for a few college friends of Marcís, they dwarf everyone around them. Jack, especially, is fated to be a freak if he canít find a way to fit in. It would be a shame for such a loving heart to be outcast.

By this time, those who have read The Saga of Pliocene Exile and INTERVENTION know why the Lylmik are protecting the Remillards. I have friends who have read JACK THE BODILESS without reading the preceding books; they read with pleasure but not with the same understanding. The entire nine-book cycle is a high-momentum, intelligent, pleasantly complex, movingly human ride, and I strongly recommend you get the full enjoyment of it by starting at the beginning.

The sequel to JACK THE BODILESS is DIAMOND MASK, recognizable to readers of The Saga of Pliocene Exile as Jackís wife and co-savior of the Galactic Milieu. All the Galactic Milieu books are available through various on-line booksellers.

Jan 2006 Review

 

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