When starting in on The Lion Game, the next Telzey Amberdon book, I took a closer look at the publication date based on the fact that book two had been short stories and novellas. It was worth noting that while the book was released in 1973, the story had been serialized in Analog magazine back in 1971. Which, if it also applied to The Universe Against Her, might explain why the story could easily be broken into two main parts. In the first book, that would be the entire vacation where Telzey discovers her psionic abilities. In this book, it’s the camping trip with her classmates.
Before I dive into content for The Lion Game, I have to say that I’m even more annoyed by The Telzey Toy now. The cover on that book specifically states that it’s the second Telzey Amberdon novel, wherein this one merely says “A Telzey Amberdon Novel.” However, it is very clear to me that The Lion Game is the direct sequel to The Universe Against Her and takes place before any of the stories in The Telzey Toy. This is why, in series made up of both novels and short stories, the latter are usually collected together as a final volume, not just shoved somewhere in the middle. In this case I suspect that the stories were written before The Lion Game…but then you have to remember that these Ace printings are a decade or more newer than the actual text. My Telzey books were published as a set, so this is something that could easily have been taken care of before they went on sale. It’s just so…infuriating! I mean, I totally understand that timeline order and publication date do not at all have to match. I keep my series sorted by timeline, which means that Dragonflight (copyright 1967) ends up in the middle of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern while First Fall (copyright 1993) is way over at the beginning. To my mind, time (should) go in a straight line.
So you can see why I’m finding the haphazard arrangement of the Telzey Amberdon books a bit…frustrating.
Anyway. Something that James H. Schmitz does well is to create alien species that are distinctly different and still compelling. Sometimes they’re sympathetic, other times they’re wholly abhorrent, but each is still gripping and keeps the reader engaged in Telzey’s discoveries. In the first section, Telzey has a random encounter with an unknown alien and a mystery psi. And while I could imagine various scenarios for figuring out what these were and where they came from, I could never have guessed the amazingly detailed scenario that Schmitz slowly revealed.
Also, Telzey gets knocked unconscious and kidnapped a LOT. I kind of wonder if I should be reaching my believability limit for how likely it is that these things keep happening to her, but then I stop and reconsider. Telzey is a very curious person. She likes to know what’s going on, and being psi means it’s quite difficult to keep secrets from her. She’s very confident in herself and her abilities, to the point of overconfidence, especially if she hasn’t considered that her curiosity has already been noticed. So she’s unprepared for whatever they do to knock her out…but once she wakes up she refuses to give her captors a second chance to get the better of her. It would be so very easy for Telzey to be an overpowered character, but Schmitz is quite a skilled author. He gives a lot of advantages to Telzey’s opponents and puts a ton of obstacles in her way. Sure, many things come easily to her, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to work to come out on top. And that’s why these books are the ideal that today’s teen fiction doesn’t even realize it wishes it could be.
To be honest, if my dad hadn’t continually brought up Telzey and pointed out the books, I would never have known they existed, much less picked them up. When I’m looking for something new to read, I almost never pick up the old 170-230 page science fiction. It’s short, it’s old enough that it’s hard for me to judge the likelihood of my enjoyment, and if it’s a series, it’s almost impossible to find the right volumes (or all the volumes) at the used bookstore. Seriously, they almost never have book one unless if it’s something like A Song of Ice and Fire where they always have at least ten copies of each book in the series. Point being, Telzey Amberdon is nearly unknown to most of the people who weren’t alive or buying books when it was actively published. It’s not like Witch World which was at least written by an author they may have heard of. I didn’t know, and still don’t really know, who James H. Schmitz was (is? probably dead since the biography says he was born in 1911), but I’ve realized that I should’ve done some research sooner. You see, Mercedes Lackey has a book I’ve been aware of for quite some time but never picked up, entitled The Wizard of Karres. I knew it was a sequel to The Witches of Karres, but since she hadn’t written the first and I was lazy, I never knew who had written it. Until I was going through Schmitz’s books in the basement and found a perfectly acceptable copy of the mythical book. So, the next time I see The Wizard of Karres for a reasonable price, I’ll have to add it to my Pile and take another dip into the world of James H. Schmitz. Given the three books I’ve read so far, I don’t think this will be a bad thing.
However, that’s some time in the future. For the time being, I have more Telzey Amberdon books to read and enjoy.