by James H. Schmitz

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson
Analog, June 1962

collected in —
The Universe Against Her
The Best of James H. Schmitz
Telzey Amberdon

March 2002;
March 2008 

Opening the mind

Telzey began a surreptitious study of the flowering bushes about her.

Three minutes later, off to her right, where the ground was banked beneath a six-foot step in the garden's terraces, Tick-Tock's outline suddenly caught her eye. Flat on her belly, head lifted above her paws, quite motionless, TT seemed like a transparent wraith stretched out along the terrace, barely discernible even when stared at directly. It was a convincing illusion; but what seemed to be rocks, plant leaves, and sun-splotched earth seen through the wraith-outline was simply the camouflage pattern TT had printed for the moment on her hide.


This review develops a portion of my essay,

Demigoddess of the Mind:
James H. Schmitz's heroine Telzey Amberdon

  1. "Novice"
  2. "Undercurrents"
  3. "Resident Witch"

"Novice" leads off James Schmitz's Telzey Amberdon series, introducing the heroine; Telzey is fifteen years old at this point.

Telzey Amberdon - Eggleton (Baen) "Novice", this first Telzey novelet, is quite neatly put together. It introduces Telzey as well as her saber-tooth sized feline pet, Tick-Tock (so called from its metronomic purring). Telzey is decisively a high-powered teenager, genius level, daughter of Federation Councilwoman Jessamine Amberdon. She is a law student at Orado University, currently on vacation on the wilderness-park planet, Jontarou.

The plot here revolves around her pet Tick-Tock and its wild relatives on Jontarou. Much of the action is telepathic, and under this stimulus Telzey's own latent mental powers begin to come into the open. She is in fact a xenotelepath, a rare person who can communicate with minds of other species in addition to the human.

These mental powers are in the realm of extra-sensory perception (ESP); or psionic, or psi powers, to use the terms that editor John W. Campbell favored in Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog Science Fiction) throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Astounding / Analog was the magazine where most of Schmitz's best work, and all the Telzey Amberdon series, were first published. Telepathy, the ability to speak mentally to another mind, is traditionally the first and chief of these mental powers.

Of course there is a downside to mental openness, especially to a novice:  

"Toss the tender small-bite to me" — malevolent crimson eyes fixed on Telzey from somewhere not far away — "and let's be done here!"

Quite an introduction! But we only have touched the surface.

In the next Telzey story we ascend to a higher plateau of mind, where the view down into the deep currents of psychology is exhilarating — and unsettling. This direct sequel is "Undercurrents"; in my discussion of that story I develop my thesis of Telzey as demigoddess.


© 2002, 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

Telzey Amberdon series

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