The Telzey Amberdon series
by James H. Schmitz
 

Review Essay by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Annotated Story List;
Story Collection Titles

March 2002

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

The Telzey Amberdon series begins in Schmitz's Hub benchmark year of 3500 A.D., and spans only a couple of years of elapsed time. These stories comprise a subset of Schmitz's larger Federation of the Hub series. The Telzey stories should be read in order, particularly the first half-dozen; the exact sequence of the later stories is not decisively established.
  


  
"Novice"
We meet Telzey. (The story review is best read as the first part of the thesis of my Demigoddess of the Mind: James H. Schmitz's heroine Telzey Amberdon.)
 
"Undercurrents"
Novella, a two-part serial in Analog; the second-longest Telzey Amberdon story. Chomir the arena hound is an awesome dog. (The story review is best read as the second part of the thesis of Demigoddess of the Mind.)
 
"Poltergeist"
One of the lesser stories. This deals with telekinesis — physical action at a distance via mental force.
 
"Goblin Night"
Goblin Night - John Schoenherr

A neat combination of physical and mental danger, outdoor adventure and mental combat.

Chomir the arena hound (from "Undercurrents") is a principal in this story too. Schmitz describes Chomir as not simply a carnivore, but of a species developed by Man as a killer of killers. In other words, not just evolved-efficient, but planned-efficient.

Analog editor Campbell was quite taken with this point. (See The John W. Campbell Letters.) I discuss the idea further in my review of "Undercurrents".

  

  

"Sleep No More"
A teleporting alien beast. Dark and suspenseful, a lead-in to "The Lion Game".
 
"The Lion Game"
Lion Game - Kelly Freas Novella, a two-part serial in Analog; the longest Telzey Amberdon story.

The setting is the portal network on the planet Tinokti, which a long-hidden strain of bioengineered, leonine humans — the Elaigar — have infiltrated, and are secretly beginning a push against the Hub civilization. The portal network allows the Elaigar to whisk in closed circuits all around the planet without mingling with the population.

"The Lion Game" is a great thriller; mental powers are less important here. The action is very fast-paced, the variety of alien and more-or-less human races is fascinating. What rough beasts slouch and race through the mazy network ... Embedded within the plot of racing action and strange faces (kind Bug-Faces in the Kelly Freas cover painting) is an interesting meditation on character types.
 

  

"Company Planet"
The Company Planet of the title is Fermilaur, a subtly dangerous place, offering beauty to the beautiful and other things as well. An excellent, suspenseful story.

Fermilaur was famous both as the leading body remodeling center of the Hub and as a luxurious resort world which offered relaxation and scenery along with entertainment to fit every taste, from the loftiest to the most depraved. It was only three hours from Orado, and most of Telzey's friends had been there. But she'd never happened to get around to it until one day she received a distress call from Fermilaur.
  

"Resident Witch"

Into the tangled skein of minds. (The story review is best read as the third part of the thesis of Demigoddess of the Mind.)
  

"Compulsion"

Trees that give you what you want, everything you want ... Sirens. There's a distant echo here of Homer's Odyssey and a closer one of Heinlein's Methuselah's Children.

The very likable Trigger Argee, heroine of A Tale of Two Clocks and other Schmitz stories, is introduced into the Telzey Amberdon series at this point. Trigger is about ten years older than Telzey; she shares a couple of the following adventures as well. The Baen Books collection wisely includes "The Pork Chop Tree" as prologue to "Compulsion", properly introducing Trigger as well as the Old Galactics. A fine story.

Professor Mantelish and the Psychology Service woman Pilch, both in A Tale of Two Clocks, also reappear here.

A brief quotation from "Compulsion" is included for illustration in Schmitz's ComWeb.
  

"Glory Day"
Telzey and Trigger are captured by a group trying to take over the government of the planet Askanam (whence the dog Chomir). Good adventure: mental, physical, power politics — as they try to stay out of the deadly arena games.
  
"Child of the Gods"
Telzey is coerced into helping a crooked psi discover what has gone wrong in his mining operation on a sparsely-populated planet. A rather horrific alien monster here.
 
"The Telzey Toy" (sometimes reprinted as "Ti's Toys"
Telzey Toy - Kelly FreasThe climax of the Telzey Amberdon series.

A Martridrama is a stage play with full-size android puppets. Martri puppets are programmed for a very limited repertoire, but within their stage settings and acting to scripts, they easily pass for human in looks, speech, movements.

Few Martriphiles saw anything objectionable in having puppets killed literally on stage when a drama called for it. It was an essential part of Martri realism. The puppets were biological machines; the emotions and reactions they displayed were programmed ones. They had no self-awareness — that was the theory.

Following a suspicious lead, Telzey is trapped on an island whose owner uses a Martri computer to operate the whole island as a giant Martri stage. A great multilevel adventure, fascinating interplay — but it is so easy to remove a puppet from a stage.

"The Telzey Toy" is a profound and disturbing story. Is Martridrama in logical progression from the stadium and arena of antiquity to our movie and videogame of today, with only the mechanical representation improving? Or does our beloved drama of disposable images and puppets too much resemble the real, manipulated populations throughout history, whose tyrants always have treated their victims as puppets?

You don't think Martridrama is in our future?
 

"The Symbiotes"
Trigger Argee is really the main character in this story, with Telzey mostly offstage. Another variation on the theme of strange and often deadly entities passing for human in the huge and diverse culture of the Hub. We meet several different types here, unsettling individually; and very unsettling as a theme.

  


  
Telzey Amberdon
stories have been reprinted singly and in various combinations, with nine fine stories in three early collections; read them in order:
  1. The Universe Against Her
  2. The Lion Game
  3. The Telzey Toy

Alternatively, the best way to read the series is in the complete sequenced set from Baen Books, collected in the following two omnibus Schmitz volumes (with some other Hub stories); read them in order:

  1. Telzey Amberdon
  2. TnT: Telzey & Trigger
      

Another omnibus collection from Baen:

The Hub: Dangerous Territory
other Federation of the Hub stories (not in the above collections).

A representative assortment:

The Best of James H. Schmitz
some Hub stories also in the above collections.
  

There is useful information as well as lots of illustrations sporadically online in The James H. Schmitz Encyclopedia, maintained by Guy Gordon. (Warning: be aware that the discussions and captions assume you have read the stories, and often reveal plot surprises.) Telzey has been fortunate in her illustrators: see the Schmitz Encyclopedia's collection of cover paintings for The Universe Against Her, quite different but all evocative.

  

© 2002 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
Analog August 1971 cover
Analog January 1971 cover
both by Frank Kelly Freas
  

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

The Federation of the Hub
Self-Maintaining Science Fiction Universe
by James H. Schmitz
  


  

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