- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Del Rey; Reissue edition (November 13, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780345355232
- ISBN-13: 978-0345355232
- ASIN: 0345355237
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Surveillance (Intervention, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – November 13, 1988
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From the Back Cover
In 1945, the technology of death was mastered, and Mankind entered a new era that could well be its last. But Nature evolves its own defense, and since that time, unnoticed throughout the world, children with amazing mental talents have been born. They are the metapsychic operants--and they have the power to rule the world.
But superhuman ability misguided can be as sure a weapon as the deadliest bomb. Will the new humans lead us to utter destruction? Or will they show us the way to take our place among the truly intelligent races of the universe?
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However, not all of humanity develops the powers and conflict and uncertainty abound, both in the Remillard family and in the human family. The Surveillance charts the course of the world and the powerful metapsychic families as Earth develops toward full membership in the galactic society that will save them. The story is told through the first person journal accounts of Rogi Remillard and the third person omniscient accounts of dozens of secondary and teritiary characters. Humans without psychic powers are jealous of thos with powers and those with powers want more power and are jealous of the aliens who oversee their development. It is a study of power and love and hope. Even the villains are understandable and human in their motives and ambitions and the heroes are flawed.
The story of the Remillard family and Earth on a galactic scale continues in Metaconcert (Intervention, No 2) (Vol 2),Jack the Bodiless (Galactic Milieu Trilogy),Diamond Mask and Magnificat (Galactic Milieu Trilogy, No 3). The story then goes back to the future and the past in the linked tetrology The Saga of the Pliocene Era which can be read either before or after the Intervention and the Galactic Milieu trilogy.
Julian May has created brilliant, psychologically complex, epic space opera on a grand scale and deserves to be better remembered for this book and the series of which it is part. The writing is smooth, the character development complete and complex in a way not usually associated with genre fiction and the themes of humanity's fatal flaws on an individual and a collective level evergreen. Get the series and either start here with The Surveillance and continue to Metaconcert and the Galactic Milieu Trilogy or start with the Saga of the Pliocene Exiles and continue with Intervention and the trilogy. Either way a rich reading experience awaits you.
May wasn't really a child of eighties SF, especially since she was in her fifties by then. She had written a couple stories in the 1950s (one of which was filmed a couple of times apparently) before avoiding the genre entirely until the eighties hit, when she came out with her "Saga of Pliocene Exile". And while that sounds like some kind of weird cross between "Clan of the Cave Bear" and "Outlander", it was something entirely different, the tale of a group from the future that goes back in time to the Pliocene to get the heck away from what the world has become and hopefully start a utopia. Unfortunately for them, aliens have reached the Pliocene first and set up shop. What follows is a very strained, violent version of "The Odd Couple" as the groups do pretty much everything but live in harmony. Oh, and psionic powers factor into this as well. I'm pretty sure it ended in a cataclysm. It was pretty great and all four books are well worth your time.
But as it turns out, the whole thing was just an introduction to May's future history, which would eventually lead to her Galactic Milieu series. To serve as a bridge between the two series and to explain how we got to the future that we glimpsed in the past (er, so to speak) she wrote the novel "Intervention" and because American publishers love our money as much as we love forking it over to them they split a novel that wasn't very long in the first place into two separate books, of which this is the first.
So its the first half of a book that serves as a prequel to two different series . . . is there any point to even reviewing this? Yes, actually. The fact that I still remember Julian May being very good despite having read the Pliocene series well over a decade ago in college tells you how memorable her writing is and reading this book reminded me just how good she was. The novel follows the gradual evolution of the Remillard family from a handful of French-Canadians to a family that would wind up changing the world and giving us a place in the universe. Its mostly told by Rogi, who is writing his memoirs of the days when metaphysical powers began to appear more often in the world, though there are moments when it cuts away to show the developing powers of other people across the planet, as well as what a bunch of aliens are doing as they observe humankind and fervently hope we don't blow ourselves to bits.
The weakest parts to me are the ones with the aliens, who are showcases for May's imagination and not much else, not having a true alien sense that an author like Cherryh would bring to the proceedings (plus at times it seems like a faint mishmash of David Brin's Uplift Series without being as galactic spanning, at least not yet). Given their job is to sit there and wait until we get our collective act together or watch as we immolate ourselves I can understand why there isn't much she can do with those scenes, but still, I don't think I would miss them if they were excised from the book entirely. Even the "Family Ghost" that advises Rogi at various moments acts more like a literal deus ex machina, basically telling him exactly what to do at certain points or maneuvering him into positions where the choice is fairly obvious.
Where it does succeed and succeed brilliantly is two fold. For one the characters are all fairly memorable, even the ones that don't appear that often. Most of our time is spent with Rogi and his ever growing extended family (he's sterile thanks to a childhood illness) and the generational feel that begins to swell in the novel is welcome as we watch his brother grow older, his nephews go from babies to men and start to have children of their own. She writes relationships well and seems to fully grasp how to make characters likeable even when they are doing things that aren't always in their best interest. She captures Rogi's freewheeling regret as well as his nephew Denis' guarded detachment and tentative hope and seems to get the complexities of family relationships, how sometimes you may be closer to a uncle instead of your father, how people can grow together when they realize all they have is each other, how you can be the same person yet different depending on who is in the room. The gradual aging of the family is one of the highlights of the novel and while it doesn't reach the heights of my favorite novels of that type (Crowley's "Little, Big" and to a lesser extent Banks' "The Crow Road") there are still like four more books to go featuring the same family.
And secondly, she writes a great set of psychic powers. There was probably the temptation to turn this into the X-Men, as the people with powers slowly emerge into the world and gain more confidence in their abilities. But she stays pretty focused on the science aspect of magic psychic powers, with much of the cast exploring how to use their abilities via university experiments (try to get that funded today) although we have at least two separate characters using their powers for crime just to keep things balanced. She has a nuanced and sympathetic view of what it's like to read minds, with some interesting depictions of mental speaking and a sensitivity toward what it would be like to be with someone who can't fully open with you the way you need (in a sense its a less despairing version of Silverberg's "Dying Inside"), treating those psychic powers as simply a very useful ability that people need to develop, like throwing a ball or dancing. It keeps the proceedings grounded despite rampaging all over the world and featuring people talking straightfaced about telekinesis, which several X-Men movies should tell you that it isn't quite as easy as you would think (though in all fairness they have claws and blue people).
Still, you can't give this book a full grade since its really only half the novel and doesn't conclude too much as find a place to stop. Also you can see where its going fairly early on, since its meant to be a staging ground for the next series, really only designed as a vehicle to carry us there without getting too confused (you could skip it entirely I suppose but I imagine it will make the next trilogy rougher going). Yet it impressed me enough to not want to read anything else but the next book, as well as reawakening long forgotten good vibes about the Pliocene series. It's ultimately telling that despite parts of her series reminds me of a strange combination of so many other SF series by other authors (enough so that it should have been a mess by all rights), the voice here reminds me of no one else but hers.