Exploring Metafunctions – The Saga of the Exiles & The Galactic Milieu

In the mid to late 1980’s a book titled “The Many Coloured Land” by Julian May, found me.

This introduced a set of widely different characters – misfits in a future society – who travel back 6 million years into Europe’s past. Like most novels I read in the 80’s and 90’s I found one character in particular that resonated with the way I was feeling. (Bryan Grenfell) Beyond that, I loved the ideas of a futuristic “world”, the time-travel to the past and particularly the mind-powers of many of the peoples in the book. I got the other three books in the Exile series as soon as I could and loved the lot.

Later, May wrote a new book called “Intervention” which described the build up to and contact (or revealing) by the other races in the galaxy, much of which relates to the human development of mind-powers. This was followed by the Galactic Milieu trilogy that detailed the development of the relationships between species and introduction to the larger society of all beings. In each of these four books, the story is wound around the lives of the Remillard family, who produce the most powerful mind-powers and both aid & threaten the whole galactic stability. (These four books are actually a prequel to the Saga/Exiles series.)

Recently I decided to re-read the entire set of eight books, and I chose to do it in chronological order by the events in the books, rather than the order I had originally read them – as they had been written/published. I won’t recommend reading them as Exile Saga then Galactic Milieu or vice versa. Both ways “work” and offer insights to the other books. Make your own choice!

Intervention (1987)                                                              Earth 1945 – 2013

Jack the Bodiless (Galactic Milieu #1, 1991)                        2040 – 2054

Diamond Mask (Galactic Milieu #2, 1994)                            2062 – 2077

Magnificat (Galactic Milieu #3, 1996)                                   2078 – 2083

The Many Coloured Land (Saga of the Exiles #1, 1981)     “2110” (6 million years BC)

The Golden Torc (Saga of the Exiles #2, 1982)                   “2110-2111”

The Non Born King (Saga of the Exiles #3, 1983)               “2111”

The Adversary (Saga of the Exiles #4, 1984)                      “2111”

There are five categories of ‘metapsychic‘ powers in the series:
Creativity: the ability to create illusions, change shape and manipulate energy.
Coercion: the ability of to influence or actually mind control other people.
Psychokinesis: (or PK) the ability to move physical objects (e.g. telekinesis, levitation).
Farsensing: the ability to communicate with others and to sense remotely (e.g. telepathy, clairvoyance).
Redaction: the ability of psychic (or physical) healing and mind reading.

I was very impressed the way these powers were defined, detailed and explained, throughout the books.

I liked the style or set-up used in Intervention & the G.Milieu books. Each section starts off in 2113 with Rogatien Remillard (“Uncle Rogi”) writing his memoirs – a biography/history of the Remillard family. Then each chapter is the “chronicle” with other events of that time to fill in the story fully. Rogi himself has minor powers and the self-rejuvenating (or “Immortality”) gene common to some of his family, which allows him to be a witness to the whole time-line. Starting with the peaceful Rogi and his dominating brother, we follow the family line as they develop powers, attempt to bring a form of world peace and the introduction of humans to the alien races of the Milieu. Later the extended family variously threaten or bring together the milieu, as human worlds are settled and many aren’t sure if they want to be part of an alien culture/society. The final stage is the metapsychic rebellion lead by Marc Remillard, and his brother Jon who stands up to him.

The Saga books are a straight forward story covering a shorter period of time in detail, primarily from the point of view of  “green group” who came “back” together. Using a one-way time-gate, non-metapsychic humans have been retreating to the pliocene to live a simpler or different life. Once they arrive they find a dual race of exotics (metapsychic near-humans) from another galaxy have crash landed there previously.  The Tanu use technology to boost their minor or latent powers to full operancy, and this also works for humans. They incorporate travellers into their society – sometimes willingly, but often by force and coercion – primarily as a workforce and for breeding stock. The Fivulag are operants (primarily creativity) who regularly fight against the Tanu, but don’t utilise humans. Three of the green group are special – Aiken (latent creativity & PK), Felice (latent coercion & redaction) and Elizabeth (former operant farsense & redact) – because they attain (or regain) full operancy. Aitken wants to rule the world, Felice wants revenge on the Tanu (or anyone else) who try to dominate her, and Elizabeth wants to run away and find peace. The books follow the development of their power(s) and those around them as they overthrow the Tanu and try to build new societies. There are also links to Celtic mythology here – suggesting that the tanu and fivulag relate to the “stories” of elves and dwarves in our human history. It doesn’t blatantly hit you over the head with the idea, but it is a well detailed theme in the background.

I’ve only given a general summary of the books here – it’s easy to find reviews and more detail on the internet. I loved the powers, the explanations and development of human potential, the politics (much more interesting than real world stuff), alien races, the mysteries presented, solutions found and the hints that point to other books in the whole set. There are well visualised settings, interesting and detailed characters, long ranging themes and mysteries, gems of amusement, sadness and joy. There are plenty of suggestions that May had planned her ideas before everything came out, because the Milieu series meshes so well with the earlier written Saga/Exiles. I’d love to read a follow on to the Pliocene Saga!