Tuesday, December 5, 2017

To Ride Pegasus - Anne McCaffrey

   1973; 244 pages.  Book 1 (out of 3) of the “The Saga of the Talents” series.  New Author? : Yes, well probably; I may have read one of her “Pern” book decades ago, but I don't recall anything about it.  Genre : Paranormal; Dystopian Fiction.  Overall Rating : 5*/10.

    Hey wouldn’t it be great if we had some bona fide psychics in our midst?  You know, people who really could tell us our future, or what some person was thinking, or whether our favorite sports team was going to win their next game?

    Of course, it would be even neater if we were that sort of person.  We could set up our own little “Madame Cleo Sees All” shop, and people would pay us big bucks for some reliable prognostication.  And we could “see” what some hot guy or girl thought about us when we made a pass at them.

    Hmm.  OTOH, we probably wouldn’t like to be around such people.  I don’t know that I’d like somebody peeking into my brain for my innermost thoughts, or practicing telekinesis by conjuring up, and dumping a pail of water on top of my head.  And come to think about, even if *I* had such a gift (let’s call it a Talent). I’d just as soon not be able to tell the exact moment somewhere in the future when I’m going to keel over and die.

    So let’s reconsider how we’d feel about those psychics dwelling among us.  Maybe we’d resent them, or be jealous of them,  or sue the pants off them if they predicted something that then didn’t come true.  And maybe if we had one of the Talents, it would be more of a curse than a blessing, or it might drive us crazy because we felt so different from everyone else.

    That’s what To Ride Pegasus explores.

What’s To Like...
    To Ride Pegasus has no chapters.  Instead it is divided into four sections, three of which (parts 2 through 4) are actually short stories that had previously been published elsewhere.  The four parts are:

“To Ride Pegasus” (pg. 1)
    The only “new” material part of the book, and an introduction to the subject matter.  Henry Darrow establishes the Parapsychic Center.
“A Womanly Talent” (pg. 56)  (1969)
    Tests show that Ruth Horvath has a parapsychic Talent.  But who can tell what it is?
“Apple” (pg. 120)  (1969)
    Someone has stolen goods from Cole’s Department store, and it is obvious that they did it via telekinetic means.
“A Bridle for Pegasus” (pg. 156)  (1973)
    A singer’s performance is really moving, despite her rather mediocre musical abilities.  Hmm.  I wonder how she managed to “touch” everyone in the audience?

    All of the Talented are not blessed with the same gift, and Anne McCaffrey focuses on the following five major groups:
    “Precogs” – who ‘see’ things that are about to occur.
    “Telekinetics” – who can move things with their minds.
    “Empaths” – who can ‘feel’ the emotions and mental moods of others.
    “Finders” – who can mentally ‘locate’ objects and/or people.
    “Telempaths” – who can ‘project’ feelings and emotions on large groups of people.

    Those are all pretty nifty Talents, but they also all have some limitations.  Telempaths may be able to influence others, but they are in turn susceptible to more powerful Telempaths influencing them.  Finders can locate things, but all they can see is the immediate vicinity.  So if a stolen article is setting in a nondescript room, they still won’t be able to tell you the address of that location, just what it looks like.  And a Precog who is able to foresee the exact time of his own death, is not particularly better off for having that knowledge.

    There is an overarching theme throughout all four sections.  Anne McCaffrey examines how we’d react if we suddenly became aware that people among us had legitimately proven parapsychic talents.  It is a basic human reaction to distrust anything and anyone we perceive as being “different” from us, and from that, prejudices and bigotry arise.  Good food for thought.

    The title is explained early in the book, as well as in the first excerpt below.  A parapsychic Talent is a gift, but it has to be controlled or ridden or bridled.  The stories are all set in a somewhat dystopian future, and primarily in parts of New York state, in and around a fictional place called Jerhattan (“Jersey” plus Manhattan”?).

    You get a slew of characters thrown at you right away in each section, although I think the only one that carries over into the sequel is Dorotea.  I chuckled when one of the antagonists called the Precogs “mental chiropractors”, and an electronic judge at the trial was an interesting tweak.  I enjoyed reading the author’s idea of where our judicial system is headed, and I also detected a bit of anti-labor in her description of the Waiters’ Union.

Kewlest New Word ...
Waldo (n.) : a remote manipulator, as for puppets, operated either mechanically or electronically.
Others : Swivet (n.); Anodyne (n.); Concomitant (adj.); Expatiating (v.)

    “The Talented form their own society and that’s as it should be: birds of a feather.  No, not birds.  Winged horses!  Ha!  Yes, indeed.  Pegasus … the poetic winged horse of flights of fancy.  A bloody good symbol for us.  You’d see a lot from the back of a winged horse…”
    “Yes, an airplane has blind spots.  Where would you put a saddle?”  Molly had her practical side.  (loc. 168)

   “Do you happen to know,” asked Henner casually for he’d got control of himself again, “the exact date of my death?”
    “As I know the exact time of mine, Mr. Henner.  You will die of a heart attack, the aorta will be closed by a globule of the arteriosclerotic matter coating your veins, at nine-twenty-one PM, exactly one year, nine months, and fourteen days from now.”
    A gleam of challenge livened to deadly intent of Henner’s gaze.  “And if I don’t?”  (loc. 576)

Kindle Details...
    To Ride Pegasus presently sells for $2.99 at Amazon for the Kindle version.  The second e-book in the series, Pegasus In Flight, goes for $4.99; and the third, Pegasus In Space is priced at $7.99.   Anne McCaffrey was a prolific sci-fi and fantasy writer, whose career spanned 46 years.  Her e-book novels are extensive, and range from $2.99 to $9.99.

“You’re a Gemini.  What’s your name? You’re going to marry me.”  (loc. 102)
    Unfortunately, there are weaknesses in To Ride Pegasus, most of which are probably due to attempting to paste together three short stories to make one full-length novel.  Sometimes that works; here it doesn’t.  There are gaps between the four sections, including the main protagonist from Part 1 dying “offstage” between that story and the beginning of Part 2.

    To boot, there is frankly very little action in the first two parts, as the Head of the Parapsychic Center keeps drilling into everybody’s head why and how the Talents are being discriminated against.  The action does pick up a bit in Part 3, and things even get a bit more exciting in the last section.  But still, the overall pacing was slow, and there were too many slow spots for me.    

    It also didn’t help that Part 2, a female Talent “finding” her gift, was datedly chauvinistic.  Granted, it was written in 1973, and things were different back then.  So let’s just say it didn’t age well.  And this from a female author.

    The good news is: Books 2 and 3 reside on my TBR shelf, and it looks like both are more typical Anne McCaffrey sci-fi/fantasy tales, without any awkward cobbling together of a bunch of short stories.  So my advice is to skip To Ride Pegasus, and go straight to reading Pegasus In Flight.

    5 Stars.  FWIW, the genres that Amazon lists for To Ride Pegasus (“Dragons & Mythical Creatures”, “Time Travel”, and “Sword & Sorcery”) are totally bogus.  There’s zero amount of any of those in the book.  Somebody just cut-&-pasted Anne McCaffrey’s usual genres in the Amazon blurb.  Dude, you had one job…

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