The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May

5/5 A blended sci-fi fantasy from a master storyteller

I first read the Many-Coloured land when I was eighteen and whilst the detail of it had faded and the language and more technical aspects were heavy going for my young self, the memory of the story remained.

My son gave me a copy for Christmas and so – thirty years later here I am again. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the re-read. Much more so in fact than I expected. The tale is of Group Green, eight individuals transported on a one-way ticket back in time to Pliocene earth and an unexpected encounter with exotic beings.

The tale is masterfully told in the third person objective style. A style I have not read for a while and I loved it. It did not paint me a tale of feelings and emotions – those were garnered by the character actions and interactions and it is powerful in that way in that it is not intrusive. There is no hero or villain but I cared for them all anyway. I never had the feeling any character was particularly safe, or morally righteous/corrupt, just flawed and very human and each and every one unique. It is almost a cosplay for the cast, each taking the trip through time to live the fantasy they couldn’t in the modern, alien advanced world of the galactic milieu which had flung humanity far and wide in the galaxy.

The book was first published in 1981 and it has that authenticity of authorship. The writing unreserved, smart and expansive. An economy of language that conveyed a fascinating tale with depth and precision but without pages of tedious expansive explanation.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be moving on to the second of the trilogy ‘The Golden Torc’ I think you should all join me.

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