THE ADVERSARY
Julian May

 


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Fourth Book in The Saga of Pliocene Exile
Julian May
Pan, 1984
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
 
Science Fiction
 
King Aiken-Lugonn has been severely injured in his most recent battle for rulership of the Tanu kingdom in Pliocene Europe. He is barely able to use the stupendous mental powers which won him his throne. But the world is not going to stop and give him time to recover. The oldest people among the Tanu and Firvulag who colonized Earth have seen the omens, and they are convinced that the time for the Nightfall War has come. If any one of Aiken’s four groups of opponents sense that he is bluffing, the Tanu kingdom will shatter. Fortunately, Aiken is very good at bluffing.
 
THE ADVERSARY follows the interwoven relationships of people from each of the five groups, plus the reluctant arbiter of them all, Elizabeth Orme. Elizabeth supports the aims of King Aiken and his Tanu, Howler, and human followers. Aiken, with his enlightened despotism, seems the best ruler available. Certainly not King Sharn-Mes of the Firvulag, who plans to exterminate all Tanu and humans. Certainly not Marc Remillard, whose cold, cruel mind is the only one stronger than Aiken’s. The other groups have no ambition to rule. The Lowlives, outlaw humans, cooperate with Aiken when they feel like it. The children of Marc Remillard and his followers want only to build a time gate to take them to Earth’s twenty-second century A.D., where their parents came from.
 
The maneuvering to build the time gate is the main plot of THE ADVERSARY. The title character, the Adversary himself, is Marc Remillard. His driving urge is the urge for dominance: humans over other species, himself over humans, his descendants mutated into forms which will allow them to dominate their universe. But Marc’s methods thus far have been so draconic that his children find them – and him – repugnant. One of his son Hagan’s goals in returning to Elder Earth and the government of the Galactic Milieu is to help the Milieu find and destroy his father. So when Marc starts visiting Elizabeth and helping her heal children, all anyone can think of is the terrifying power Marc is developing: learning to jump instantaneously anywhere in the universe, carrying along anything he chooses to bring. Everyone knows that soon Marc will be able to stop the building of the time gate.
 
For the reader, a single triangle dominates THE ADVERSARY, in spite of its many interesting subplots. The characters of Aiken, Marc, and Elizabeth are so strong as to overwhelm all other interests. We learn to know each of them deeply as they evolve to meet their ordeals. There is a fascination to these three powerful minds, each with their own fetters in spite of their far-ranging strengths. What do they really want? What do they love? What will touch off the inevitable explosion? Which way will the balances tip?
 
THE ADVERSARY leaves several strings dangling for follow-up stories – and one rope. The new venture of Marc Remillard opens huge new vistas of possibility. There are also several newborn and as-yet-unborn children who have had stories suggested for them throughout the series. But instead, in her next book INTERVENTION (divided for paperback publication into THE SURVEILLANCE and THE METACONCERT), May goes back to explore the roots of the Remillard family, its role in the development of mental powers among humans and in bringing Earth into the Galactic Milieu.
 
The genre of “complicated science fiction series” has growing numbers of fans. Keeping track of numerous plots using invented skills in an unfamiliar setting is a satisfying challenge for people who like to reach further than the lives of everyday Earth. Author Julian May weaves complications with the best of them. The characters of The Saga of Pliocene Exile touch archetypes from our subconscious, making us believe that everything she writes of is possible. They live out their aspirations or lack of them, connive and betray, heal and protect, love and hate. They even, sometimes, do all these at once, just as we might do. The Saga of Pliocene Exile is one of my favorite rereads of a lifetime.
 
January 2005 Review

 

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