There’s no need to ride Pegasus

When you think of Anne McCaffrey and riders, the first thing that undoubtedly springs to mind is her Pern series. But she has another book (apparently a series) that likewise involves riding mythical beasts–at least so far as its title goes. To Ride Pegasus is the first book of the “Talent Saga”, which explores the implications of the rise of parapsychic powers in the world.

You rarely find good theology at used book sales–people who have good theology books don’t give them away. Good science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, turn up a bit more often. I’ve found some treasures at local library book sales (including this, this, this, and this). So when I saw McCaffrey’s name flit past while scanning through the books I grabbed it–despite the Harlequin-looking cover:

Image result for to ride pegasus anne mccaffrey
Image: Goodreads

To begin with, the cover of the older edition I’ve got is a lie. “The women” are “miracle workers out to save mankind in a world decidedly ready for salvation;’ and the list of female characters on the  back do show up in the book (even if only fleetingly). But the overall impression is that we are about to read a book about psychic Amazons who are going to go off and start their own country. Which isn’t the kind of book I’d normally pick up and read, but Anne McCaffrey at least gets a first glance just on the strength of her reputation as a novelist.

Contrary to the cover claims, the book focuses on two men: Henry Darrow and Daffyd op Owen. The former begins a Center for those with “Talent,” or psychic abilities, and the latter carries on his work by overcoming legal, social, and practical obstacles. There are women at the Center, but there are likewise men in addition to the two main characters. The tension of the book is first the question of whether or not the Talents will be accepted, and then whether or not they will survive. Spoiler alert: they are and they do.

Overall, this book is a bit disappointing. Not because the content doesn’t match the lurid cover–I’m actually quite okay with that. Instead, this book is disappointing just because it doesn’t really go anywhere. If anything, this is little more than a setting the stage for the stories that McCaffrey presumably wants to tell in the following books (which I’ve not read). The good news is, McCaffrey is a decent enough writer to pull it off. While the plot and characters are all kind of lackluster, she still strings words together well enough that you can plow through this book and not feel like you’re wasting your time, the way you would with a less competent author.

And with that said, there is still some small substance here for the Christian to chew on. The first thing that happens when “Talent” is scientifically proven (with an EEG) is that people with the gift organize and start to work for the good of mankind. This is a clear display of the modern liberal (note the small ‘l’) ideal. Those who are not onboard with the community program are gently ‘adjusted’ by those with mental powers so that they are.

That is at best an incomplete picture that utterly fails to take into account human and institutional sin. If the average human being were given psychic powers tomorrow, we’d all be in a lot of trouble. We are all at heart egoists and cannot be reasonably expected to do anything but make our very best attempts at bending others towards ourselves. If we were given a tool that let us do this whenever and wherever we wanted, we very quickly would have a cult following and be on our way to conquering the world.

So I guess the takeaway here is that we should be glad we’re not troubled with the temptation of being able to psychically manipulate others into doing our will. As much as we might think we’d enjoy that kind of power, the Bible is pretty clear about the reality of human nature and why it must be restrained by the law and transformed by grace.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO, where his equestrian days are long over.

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