There’s new books and old books, but there’s also new old books such as The Universe Against Her by James H. Schmitz. It’s the first of the Telzey Amberdon books, originally published in 1964. My copy, yet another book I’ve acquired from my father, happens to be an Ace reprint from 1979, which still makes it far older than I am.
It reminds me of several other books with similar concepts that I found in the basement, such as Acorna and In Conquest Born. There’s a lot of science fiction out there – stuff that would still be classed as science fiction today – that involves telepathy. Because yes, Telzey is a telepath, though she didn’t know that before her abilities started to unfold.
I’ve been reflecting on the general trends of teen books lately and if ever there was a book that could be repackaged for teens today, The Universe Against Her is a prime candidate, starting with the title alone. After all, what better way to attract moody youths than with a title that says “you think your life sucks? Her life sucks in every conceivable way!” Then there’s her age – Telzey Amberdon is only fifteen years old. She’s precocious too, in college as a law student and her best friend is mere months shy of being 19 – the age of majority for her planet. Telzey’s also the privileged daughter of two important parents and so has all the money she could ever want in addition to the love and support of her parents. And, wonder of wonders, when she tells them something, they listen to her, and act on what she says as if she was an adult in her own right!
I guess what I’m saying is that the title is something of a lie. At least, if you assume that the “her” is Telzey. Regardless, does this not sound like perfect teen-bait? Essentially, this is what today’s teen books wish they could be. With all that taken into consideration, it’s surprising that I’ve never seen this series in a store. It’s definitely better than some of the crap that makes it onto store shelves.
As far as content goes, it’s a surprisingly dense book for all it’s only 181 pages long. There is a lot that happens over the course of the novel and sometimes I felt the need to slow down and reread what I’d just read to make sure I could follow the action. The book as a whole doesn’t stand out to me as being something absolutely amazing that no one should miss, but it’s definitely a solid beginning to the series and I enjoyed myself.