The second book in the Pegasus series, published October 1990.
Earth has reached its darkest moment. In subterranean warrens, the poor eke out precarious lives where jobs are scarce and children are sold for labor – while on the surface, a privileged few enjoy lives of luxury. As the population surges and unrest spreads, a disaster of epic proportions seems inescapable. The only hope: a platform under construction in space from which starships will be launched to colonize distant planets. But the project is critically behind schedule.
In the midst of the chaos, Rhyssa Owen and her fellow Talents – telepaths who read minds, kinetics who manipulate matter, and precogs to whom the future is an open book – struggle to survive. Then two children are discovered whose extraordinary psychic gifts have the potential to avert the looming catastrophe – or hasten its ominous arrival …
This second book in the series is published 27 years after the first one, and I have to admit, even though the technology used is again outdated by reality, I liked this one a lot better. It takes place many decades after the first one. It tells the story of Rhyssa Owen, the current director of the East American Center, some of her staff, and two young Talents. How they are discovered, and finally found, and brought “home”. Both their stories are not easy ones.
People are only permitted to have one child each, as the world is severely over populated at the time. The world has committed to build a huge shipyard in space, to launch spaceships, to populate new worlds. Lots of people are drafted to work there, but the Talents have tried it, and can’t cope with the bad conditions in space. Too small accommodations, and to much noise, and bad rations. Space Station Construction Manager Ludmilla Barchenka is not buying that nonsense: there is no sound in space! But she doesn’t believe in psychic noise. And why cannot the kinetics work for more than 6 hours a day, just like everyone else conscripted to the project?
Peter Reidinger got severely injured when a wall collapsed on top of him, while he was running away from a gang. He is paralysed, can only move his head. But his Talent awoke out of pure necessity, and he is discovered as the strongest kinetic ever found. He learns how to use his talent to move his own body, to walk and eat like there is nothing wrong with him. He also uses generators to amplify his talent, so he can lift the heaviest things imaginable. Like a whole spaceship!
Tirla is a young illegal girl, living in one of the huge Linears, that houses millions of people of all ethnical races. Her mother had one legal child, a son, who got legal ID. She also kept having other children, whom she kept and raised illegally, instead of have the medics “tie her off”. When the son died, the next child got the ID, until she sold it. Now Tirla is the only one left of her family, as her mother and other siblings died in an epidemic. She is a very smart girl of 12, capable of looking out of herself, surviving on her skills. She doesn’t know she is a Talent, but she can speak all the ethnic languages around her, interpret for her neighbours, and scrounge a living for her self. When the ID’s of her mother and brother expired, when they did not show up at some determined point, she vacated the room, and went to live underground.
There is a big problem, with illegal children being sold into slavery. To work in illegal factories, as sex slaves, or as organ donors. Tirla is determined not to share that fate! But she does understand why parents have the need to sell their children, to have some extra credits to buy stuff and food, to feed their other children. It is just how it has been done for ages.
When the Talents find out however, when a lot of young abused bodies wash ashore, they are horrified, and will do everything in their power to put a stop to this. The authorities have no idea there are so many illegal children in the Linears, they have not enough people to search it all, or find out before the mothers give birth. Illegal people are send to work at the space station, but what are they to do with the babies?
I liked both Peter and Tirla, for being such strong characters. Peter for learning to live with his Talent instead of a healthy body. And Tirla for managing on her own so well. Even when she gets everything she could not even dream of, she chooses differently.
Also, the other main and secondary characters are great, and the evil and bad ones, are really loathsome. I was very happy they got what they deserved.
I enjoyed re-reading this book and I will dive right into the third one, Pegasus in Space. Anne McCaffrey (who has passed away very recently) was a wonderful author, with a great talent of creating worlds and characters you have to love. There is always a tiny bit of romance in her books, which I love, but it is the journey, the adventure that I love to read about. I really do wish I had some psychic Talent and could go live in that world.
Anne McCaffrey has a beautiful writing style, easy to read, and very well paced. Clear descriptions of things and people, a wonderful sense of humor.
I am very glad I have all of her books, and I love all of her worlds, well, exept Doona, and I will give that one another try someday.