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Telzey Amberdon    by James H. Schmitz order for
Telzey Amberdon
by James H. Schmitz
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 2000 (1953)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

James Schmitz was one of the first SF authors to give us strong heroines (Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars was another from the same era). I remember reading some of the short stories now in Telzey Amberdon in Analog magazine in my teens, and re-reading them again and again. Eric Flint compiled this recent collection and he has included two tales at the end of the book that are prequels to the Telzey cycle. They set the scene for some of the characters that she encounters.

Telzey is a marvellous heroine, even if a bit too good to be true. She's a fifteen year old genius (her sixteenth birthday happens at the end of these short stories), attractive, athletic and from a powerful family. Her mother is a Federation Councilwoman. Telzey's problems begin when she discovers an emerging psychic talent. This comes about in the first story in the book, in which Telzey's conniving and malicious aunt Halet attempts to have her pet (an overgrown catlike creature called Tick-Tock) confiscated.

Of course our heroine foils this nasty plan and in the process finds out that she is a xenotelepath, able to communicate with other species. Her talents continue to develop through the stories. But this first tale brings up an issue that did not trouble me when I first read these stories but does now. Telzey frequently uses her skills to manipulate the minds and personalities of others. Admittedly these are the bad guys in the stories but it is still disturbing. Schmitz has her express some moral qualms but mostly asks the reader to accept these actions as pragmatic choices in difficult situations.

Aside from that reservation these are still entertaining SF adventures full of action, spies and aliens of all kinds. And although the author has created a super-heroine he does not stint in the challenges and super-villains that he throws against her. If you have encountered Telzey before, this is a good compilation of her early stories. If she's new to you, then you have a treat in store.

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