This is all coffeeandink
's fault. Who would have thought that my hunger for pulp sf with psychic powers and adventures and exotic landscapes and culture shock, which has gone so long denied because most of what's written in the genre is so clunky that I can't read it, would be satisfied by, of all people, Marion Zimmer Badley? True, her prose sometimes clunks, but not so loudly that I can't read it. Although I do wish that she had stopped herself from the over-use of "somehow," which I keep wanting to redline: "Somehow he knew the storm was unnatural," "Somehow, she was able to tap into a surge of power," "He somehow found the strength to go on--" in every case, the sentence would be better without the somehow. And yet somehow, I continue to read.
I liked both of these a lot. The nice thing about re-reading books I last read when I was fifteen is that I don't recall what happened in any of them, but I have very very vague recollections of which I thought sucked, so I can avoid them and just read the ones I recall liking. Stormqueen!
is an exception: I didn't actually ever read the whole thing. I had a bad feeling a few chapters in, flipped to the end, and was so disturbed that I never read the rest. So with that one, I went in knowing what happened, but not how or why.The Heritage of Hastur
concerns the sweet true love between two teenage boys, depressed crown prince (sort of) Regis Hastur, who can't use his telepathic powers, and Danilo Syrtis, abused cadet and catalyst telepath. You see how neatly that works? Their story is very reminiscent of oldish coming-out novels, full of fraught moments and silences and memories of the first time a boy knew he was different. Only it's all so much more fun when there's telepathy involved. The villain here, six-fingered Dyan Ardais, is rather more complex and interesting than evil older sadistic gay child-molesting predators usually are.
There is second story going on, involving Regis' childhood pal Lew Alton, now grown-up and suffering from a common affliction of MZB's male protagonists, the tendency to cut off their noses to spite their faces. This is generally expressed in the form of "I am so rebellious that if an authority figure wants me to do something, I'll do the opposite, even if we both really want the same thing." After a fight with his admittedly overbearing father Kennard Alton, Lew takes off for the notorious clan of Aldaran, and there discovers that there's a reason why everyone thinks Aldaran is bad news. (Do we ever learn what exactly was the reason they were banished?) I can't help feeling that a great deal of tragedy and trauma would have been averted if Lew had just given a chance to the perfectly nice woman his father was trying to set him up with, whom he rejected solely because society would have approved of the match. Stormqueen!
takes place way earlier, but also involves crazy Aldarans meddling with powers they can't control, which also leads to disastrous results. It also is the first indication that no one should ever name their girl baby Dorilys.
In the Ages of Chaos before the coming of the Terrans, laran has been enhanced to a fantastic degree by a eugenics program which favors strength over stability, so people are born with incredible powers, but tend to die at birth, drop dead at puberty, go insane, or be unable to control their powers and cause huge amounts of trouble before going insane or dropping dead. Oh, and they've also developed a whole range of nasty laran-powered or laran-created weapons, including napalm. And they can directly manipulate genes, and thus created some non-human sex slaves. It's all very oppressive and decadent.
Dorilys Aldaran is a little girl who can call lightning, but isn't so good with controlling it. Her increasingly nutty father calls in several psychics to teach her to control her powers, but it's a big struggle and the neighboring kingdom is trying to seize his, and everything goes horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. Oh, and there's incest. Why does everything I've read in the last few months involve incest?