Book review: A Pliocene / Intervention / Galactic Milieu reflection

Seeing as The Great Intervention is nearly upon us (due next year in fact), I am doing a reread of the Julian May books – Saga of the Exiles, Intervention and the Galactic Milieu trilogy.

For those who like their stories on a grand scale with a lot of philosophy, Jungian archetypes, history, pseudo history (which, because it is in the future, hasn’t actually happened yet), religion, and a good dose of literary references thrown in, this is a good series to get your teeth into.

Part sci fi, part fantasy (particularly the Exiles books) there is a bit of something for everyone – and the writing does get better as the series progresses.  I find the series quite good to start with, and even more enjoyable once Uncle Rogi becomes the narrator from Intervention onwards.  The scope is a looping time-travel sequence that covers millions of years, and the start is the middle is the end kind of thing.

I actually read an interview with May online that was posted some years back, and I was looking for it again.  I haven’t seen it, no doubt long gone.  In the interview she mentioned that she actually wrote the Galactic Milieu books first, and submitted them but they were rejected by publishers.  So she then wrote all four books of the Saga of the Exiles in the space of about 3 months, and used the background from the Galactic Milieu books she had already written – the metapsychic rebellion, the Remillards, the Intervention etc.  However by using the time travel motif she was then able to create a kind of sci fi version in a fantastical earth of ancient myths.  They proved to be a hugely popular success, and then she was able to rework the Galactic Milieu books (and I suspect added not just Intervention but also Uncle Rogi at that point) before getting them published.

Anyway as I searched around hoping to find this old interview, I found a fan site of the series that I though had a lovely summary of what the entire sequence is about:

  1. An unpardonable and heinous sin.
  2. A great Intervention; and,
  3. A remarkable Atonement.

From the moment that Uncle Rogi appears, these elements become even more apparent.  Yes, some were definitely referred to in The Non-Born King and The Adversary.  But in the prologue of Intervention Uncle Rogi refers to Marc Remillard as the greatest mass murderer in human history, and it is a lot more personal than when Elizabeth talks about the 4 billion deaths he caused when she discusses it in The Adversary.

For Uncle Rogi, it has been something that has tormented him for almost half a century, that the great-nephew he practically raised could have been responsible for so heinous and devastating actions.  And for the catholic Remillards, of course atonement must play a part somehow.  The actions of the ‘band of brothers’ lead by Paul, Anne, Jon and Dorothea – and the subsequent canonisation of Jon and Dorothea – is not enough for them.  The whole family must carry the burden of the saint and the sinner brothers and it is up to Uncle Rogi to explain what happened (via the Pliocene).

I would have like to know more of the returnees, particularly Cloud and Kuhal, and how they coped in the Brave New World.  But I guess their story is one for us to imagine, not to be told by May and / or Uncle Rogi.   But it is enough that I have a series I can read from time to time that is not just a great story, but one that can make me think upon philosophy and religion and history and what our place in the universe amounts to.  I hope one day I can write something that will make even one person have a similar reaction.

Saint Jean le Désincarné, priez pour nous.

2 thoughts on “Book review: A Pliocene / Intervention / Galactic Milieu reflection

  1. I had a moment of sudden realisation reading the original Exiles series, about halfway through the second time.

    It was somebody’s RPG! It’s a party that are thrown together under loose justification (The GM was bored of Inns obviously) and we get to watch as they split the party and powergame their way up the levels, accumulating magical artefacts and “special” powers.

    One even gets a laser lance! Can anyone say artefact?

  2. Before I had even read the books, one of my friends complained that it was his favourite series, and he had played a freeform based on the Pliocene Saga that wasn’t very good (in his opinion) which really ruined it for him for a while. So I have always been aware of the gaming potential.

    When I was part of a game writing group we did use elements of the metapsychic powers for a Mage game that used the storyteller system but not the World of Darkness setting. I can’t remember all the details but I did work on correlating all the powers to different spheres. I think that some of them – like redaction and creativity – were linked to two different spheres to get the different effects (I don’t want to say positive and negative sides of the powers, but you know what I mean)

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