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The Saga of the (Pliocene) Exiles by Julian May

Review by Mike

The Many-Coloured Land
The Golden Torc
The Nonborn King
The Adversary

Science fantasy.

The year was 2034 when a French physicist discovered a one-way fixed-focus timewarp into the Rhône valley of six million years ago. By the start of the 22nd century, there are those who seek to escape a world of technological perfection - the misfits and mavericks of the future, who pass through the doors of time and enter a battleground of two warring races from a distant planet.

This is a story with elements from both science fiction and fantasy. Somewhere I’ve come across the term science fantasy and that actually describes this series rather well. High tech weapons appear side by side with swords and spears, people one minute travel slowly on strange Pliocene mounts, the next they throom away in yet-to-be-invented flying machines. You get the picture. And the alien culture, that seems to be inspired by a combination of medieval knight ideals and samurai traditions, contrasts with the ways of the Galactic Milieu, where the humans come from. A fascinating set-up!

May starts out by introducing us to a group of humans who for different reasons feel they don’t fit into the 22nd century society. A society that has changed quite a bit from our days. Due to our rapid development of psychic powers, mankind has now been assimilated into a great galactic confederation, but not all people are ready to live in a world ruled by the ideals of more socially mature alien races. So, our little group of unhappy people buy a one-way ticket to Pliocene Europe through a time-gate in France, thinking they’ll share the planet only with animals and the very distant forefathers to humanity.

But what they don’t know is that an alien race from a galaxy far, far away (*g*) has settled there already, and they soon find themselves in the middle of the political scheming. This is the true beginning of the story.

We begin with eight persons, and the story is told from a shifting POV perspective. As it moves along new characters come along and old ones disappear. May is generally good at creating complex characters that are interesting to follow, but a few times it got a bit too much for my poor brain to follow the quick transitions from person to person. This could of course also be caused by my frequent week-long breaks from reading.

Well. I do think that the way the plot unfolds, twists and turns, suddenly adds new elements and so on is great. But it’s also here I have my (minor) complaints. May has a very tight writing style, fitting a story that Robert Jordan would produce at least 10000 pages to conclude into four books of around four hundred pages each. Unfortunately this leads to confusion in some cases. Suddenly there just seems to be something lacking. The story moves on while you think “Hey, how did he stave off that attack?” or something similar. Once again, my fragmentary reading might have something to do with this.

Despite my small complaints and how it seemed to take me forever to get through to the end, this is a truly good series. Original, to say the least, and well told. Julian May actually made me change my sympathies halfway through the story, and that is no minor feat. On the other hand, she gets a bit “technical” sometimes, which can be difficult if English is your second language only.

Overall, this is a good series - I give it 4 amulets.

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