The second Telzey Amberdon book is not actually a novel as such. Entitled The Telzey Toy and Other Stories, it explains in brief that we have here a set of four stories of varying lengths featuring a certain psionic teenager. Most of these continue the impression I received in The Universe Against Her; that this world is not fluffy bunnies and unicorns, but that Schmitz doesn’t take things to such a deep level that you question giving anyone outside of Telzey absolute trust. And really, if he were to create such an aura of paranoia, the title story would have been the place to do so.
The four tales within are “The Telzey Toy,” “Resident Witch,” “Compulsion,” and “Company Planet.” And here’s where I get a real sense of the author’s strengths. One of my problems with the first book was how disconnected the two parts felt. There’s the first portion wherein Telzey is vacationing and discovers she’s psi. Then there’s the second portion where someone’s out to kill her friend for her inheritance and Telzey, with her newly awakened powers, is determined to stop them. Really, they work better as a short story and a novella or short book, and probably might be better received if they were divided up that way within the actual book. I know it’s unusual for a setup like that, but I have one or two Bolo anthologies that do something very similar with 1-3 short stories followed by a long novella that takes up the entire rest of the average-sized book. Whatever works, you know?
Of the stories, I think that “Compulsion” is my favorite for being so out there and different from the rest. When you’re dealing with humans, you’re creating situations that I, as a human, will find much more predictable. But aliens, ah, therein lies the key to innovation, when handled properly. And “Compulsion” is definitely well-written. In fact, one could argue that Telzey isn’t the star of the story, merely the familiar vehicle to carry the reader to the main attraction.
Not to discount the title tale of course, “The Telzey Toy” is definitely noteworthy and brain-breaking. It’s also the only story that didn’t specifically mention Telzey’s age, which leads me to believe that it takes place later than the rest, despite its position as first in the book. I suspect this placement was more about the strength of the stories than about the timeline, which is fine. This is also the story with the creepiest implications and ramifications when you get to thinking about it, and I can see why they chose to make it the featured tale. Not to mention that “The Telzey Toy” just rolls off the tongue.
For those stories that do mention Telzey’s age, we see her finishing up school and taking her exams, establishing that, generally speaking, most subsequent books will see her as an independent adult. Not that she hasn’t acted that way the entire time, but adults are unrestrained by the need to be at school or at home or wherever. Adults do have places to be too, but since Telzey’s already established as being the child of very wealthy parents with access to all she needs, she pretty much has the freedom to go wherever she chooses.
It remains to be seen what the other books have in store – whether they’re all novels, whether some are anthologies like this one, or a mix of both. Either way, I’m interested to see what other adventures Telzey Amberdon embarks upon.