The Many-Colored Land by Julian May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a surprisingly good read, but I suppose I shouldn't have been that surprised. It won the Locus and was nominated for both the '82 Hugo and '81 Nebula, after all.
I had this odd assumption that it was all fantasy from the bookcovers I'd known and from the comments I'd heard, and that's true as far as most of the story elements are concerned, but at its core, it's Hard SF with a huge dash of space opera, a truly epic amount of world-building in both the future and 6 million years in the past, with, of course, a lot of time-travel, and there's a truly epic amount of psi abilities, too.
The story breaks a lot of long-established SF and Fantasy conventions for the time, focusing almost exclusively on being fun, fun, fun. Julian May has a lot of respect for the genres and has a great time playing with ideas and sub-genres.
I mean, where else can you combine starships and aliens and slightly veiled fae with time travel to the deep past and huge genetic manipulation and high psi abilities, a long commentary on what it means to be human-normal in a perfected galactic society and how that makes us throwbacks, and how long wars can destroy whole genetic lines and the part that culture has in the whole mix.
Sound complicated? Not the way she writes it! Like I said, it's all fun adventure the high-tech magical artifacts, winning epic battles in the deep past, and getting to know and love some very interesting characters who happen to be... us. Flawed, idiotic, us. :)
The bonus in this novel is that there's a lot of great characters and it takes on a lot more scope than I'm used to seeing, lately. Not just 6 million years worth of scope, either, but in space and characters, races, and intentions.
And you've got to love rule-breakers and revolution-starters, too. Like I said, it's all fun. :)
And, of course, if you love epic fantasy but always wanted to see it treated like SF, then this is your book, because a great portion of it is devoted to just that. It's really quite a cool crossover. :)
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