Tue 25 Apr 2017
JAMES H. SCHMITZ – The Universe Against Her. Telzey Amberdon #1. Ace F-314, paperback original; 1st printing, 1964. Although not so stated, this novel is a fix-up consisting of two previously published stories “Novice” (Analog SF, June 1962) and “Undercurrrents” (serialized in Analog SF, May & June 1964). Gregg Press, hardcover, 1981.
There were in all a dozen or more Telzey Amberdon stories, all first appearing in Analog SF and over the years collected and repackaged in various shapes and forms, most recently by Baen Books. From all accounts they were very popular at the time, often gaining cover story status.
In this novel consisting of Telzey’s first two adventures, during the course of which she begins to gain knowledge and control of her one-in-a-million telepathic powers, she is only a 15-year-old girl going to law school. In “Novice” she manages to outwit her evil aunt who has plans of taking her pet away from her, a large cat-like animal Telzey has named Tick-Tock.
What the aunt doesn’t know, nor does Telzey, is that Tick-Tock is the only member of his race of telepathic beings who has remained visible on the planet of his origin, which is where Telzey is visiting her aunt. By communicating with Telzey telepathically, Tick-Tock also awakens her latent powers.
This is a good story, spoiled a bit by the lack of real motive for the aunt to do what she does, then by an ending in which Telzey fiddles with the aunt’s mind so that she no longer a bad person. There ought to be law against that, is my thought, but apparently there isn’t.
There is also not a law against murder for hire, as it turns out in story number two, which in book form continues immediately after the first. In fact, quite the opposite is true and is legally called a “private war.” Once again it is a female relative who is the evil antagonist, except this time it is that of a good friend of Telzey at school, a girl who is about to come into an inheritance worth a lot of money, if she lives that long.
This one moves slowly, in one sense, since a lot is taking place, but a lot of exposition is used to explain what is happening. The way science fiction is written today, all of the action would be described with much more detail, with lots of dialogue to help move the story along, instead of longish paragraphs that summarize, telling not showing. It’s a good story, but to today’s readers, told in dull fashion.
Not much is made of Telzey’s age, by the way, nor even the fact that she is female, both facts which were, I think, quite remarkable for the time the stories were written. By the time this book ends, her psionic abilities, seemingly getting a quantum boost whenever needed, are very powerful indeed, but with a strong hint that even more adventure — and danger — lie ahead.