The Golden Torc (The Pliocene Exile #2) by Julian May

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Book Review
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Three races fight for dominance in Pliocene Europe.

Premise :

Several million years ago, two factions of a dimorphic alien race took shelter on the most compatible planet: earth.

Fast-forward to the 22nd century, where not all humans are happy with the speed of progress and intergalactic relations with various “exotic” races. Several “misfit” humans portal back to Pliocene Europe to escape their own time. Ironically, these time-traveling refugees of the future must now battle aliens for their very lives in the past, instead of living in peace and harmony with them in their own time.

The saga of the human and alien refugees continues in this second book of the Pliocene Exile.

Adult science fiction, Published 1982. Book I was nominated for the Nebula award in 1981 and a Hugo Award in 1982. It won the 1982 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

What I Liked :

The plot. The plot of book I, The Many Colored Land, is split between setup for the time warp (from “intergalactic age earth” to “Pliocene earth”) and the events following the warp—a short plot of political rebellion that takes place in the world of the Pliocene itself.

But book II is all Pliocene politics, baby, and the power struggles center on racial survival.

The Tanu, the dominant exotic race due to their strong mental powers, continually battle their rivals and sister-race, the Firvulag, who lack the technology and mental powers of the Tanu.

And humans are the slaves.

Because the Tanu struggle to procreate due to earth’s radiation levels (unlike the Firvulag, who are far more numerous), they seek humans with strong mental abilities as mates to carry on their bloodlines and rule the Pliocene empire. As a result, humans with strong mental abilities, such as the madcap trickster Aiken Drum (who always keeps things interesting) or the totally boring but insanely powerful Elizabeth are highly sought after as Tanu mates.

So, basically the premise rocks. The author pulls it off with style and it’s a lot of fun.

What I Didn’t Like :

(1) My lack of connection with the characters was such that whenever they endured some terrible plot twist of fate, my reaction, instead of crying with the characters, was continually, “HAH! Clever twist, author, I gotta hand it to you.” It’s not that the characters were bad; not at all. In fact, for a plot- and milieu-driven book, they were quite good. But I really like to connect with my characters, and I had trouble with that in both books I & II. The main reason is, I think,

(2) that as with book I, I would have preferred fewer perspectives. I like reading from the perspective of a small cast anyway, but these books aren’t large enough to fully explore their 8+ character arcs.

(3) My third complaint is totally subjective and likely connected to my first complaint, above; but it bothers me that love is never a “great power,” in this series. Hatred, madness and power-lust drive the plot, but love (almost) never does. Pliocene lovers (who have no chemistry, btw) tend to find comfort in their love only until they go mad or die.

Love is almost never a powerful plot motivation. Mental powers are the main “force,” in this world.

Which brings me to (4) my fourth and final complaint: I don’t find the speculative element all that…magical. I know, I know, this is sci-fi, not fantasy; but I still like to find myself wishing I could have a go with the superpowers or whatever. I didn’t feel that way about the five great “mental guilds” or “metaphysic clans” that make up a large portion of the speculative element, in this series: Farsensors, Creators, Coercers, psychokinetics (PK), and Redactors.

The mindspeak is almost nauseating, at times. It sounds like baby talk:

Atleast they no make Aiken dance their tune viceversa if anything.
Not toy like Raimobooby.
Nor I Sukeylove if you help.”

I happen to enjoy whimsy more than MIND CRUSHING POWERS! But a different reader might really enjoy the complexity of the mental gymnastics involved.

Overall :

Julian May knows how to tell a good story. This review may have sounded negative, but I’m really just elucidating my own personal reasons for keeping this book at 3.5 stars, despite the incredible thought put into the premise and pageantry.

Recommended To :

Male readers of fantasy and sci-fi at my library seem to love this series. Any plot- or milieu-driven readers would eat this up. I recommend it to teen and adult readers of sci-fi. It will appeal to some fantasy readers, but more to sci-fi readers, I think.

Book III? :

I think I’ll give it a shot. The plot sounds interesting and I like the direction things are going with Aiken Drum…

3.5/5 STARS

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