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Literature / Galactic Milieu

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The Galactic Milieu Series by Julian May describes the struggle of the most powerful of the human metapsychics and their interaction with a galactic confederation of exotic beings.

The entire story takes place over roughly a 150 year period, starting with the birth of the narrator in 1945. History starts to diverge wildly and obviously from ours in the mid 80s as psychic research becomes mainstream due to the actual existence of people with operant mind powers.


  • Intervention
  • Jack The Bodiless
  • Diamond Mask
  • Magnificat

The series is tightly linked to the Saga of the Exiles by the same author.

The Galactic Milieu provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Fury is a split personality formed when Denis was abused by his father as a baby.
    • Fury itself probably counts for its treatment of Hydra and its intentions for the nonborn Paramounts.
  • The Ageless: The Remillard Clan. Each one appears to stop getting older at a different age.
  • A God Am I: Mental Man is repeatedly referred to using capitalized pronouns, like the Judeo-Christian God.
  • Artificial Human: The "nonborn" are artificially inseminated, then grown and delivered to term in Uterine Replicators.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Evolutionary Levels towards the "goal" of Unity.
  • Asexuality: Marc believes he is asexual for several years. Anne also shows absolutely no interest in any romantic relationship.
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  • Assimilation Plot: Metapsychic humanity is to be evolved to "coadunation," in essence an altruistic racial unity, though not a Hive Mind. Ordinary humans without operant abilities are allowed to remain separate so long as they don't become recidivist criminals, though the definition of "crime" is continually adjusted downward; those who won't get with the program are exiled, imprisoned, lobotomized or euthanized (and exile later stops being an option), and nonpsychic humanity is being slowly bred out. Operants are brought into coadunation, period; after the end of the Metapsychic Rebellion, there's no option B except for Rogatien Remillard, who is allowed to remain the last Metapsychic Rebel in exchange for services rendered.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: ...and Are Trying to Assimilate Our Race into a Hive Mind in Which We Will Lose All Our Individuality — The Rebels believe this.
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  • Arranged Marriage: Denis and Lucille marry because they know their offspring will be very powerful metapsychics; they don't actually like each other much at the time. It works out though.
  • The Atoner: Marc Remillard, who goes through the Pliocene time-gate after the Rebellion, and eventually guides the Duat Galaxy into Unity and founds the Galactic Milieu, becoming a Lylmik, and naming himself Atoning Unifex. In Magnificat, after six million years, he says to the other four Supervisors that his atonement is still incomplete, although they don't appear to know what he means as they constantly ask him how he comes across all his information.
  • Badass Biker: young Marc rides a Cool Bike during his college days.
  • Badass Family: The Remillards rarely ever work together as a whole, but they're all pretty badass.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: Whether this trope is in effect provides one of the central conflicts of the series. The Intervention almost indisputably saved humanity from destruction through civil war, but the majority of humanity is simply not on board with the creation of Unity, and are still bitter about the Simbiari taking over and suppressing their freedom of speech, assembly and religion for several decades.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: There are two separate threats. One is Fury, who is Denis' split personality and is largely out to wreck things, particularly the Remillard dynasty. The other is Marc Remillard, leader of the Metapsychic Rebellion and creator of Mental Man, who is out to prevent the forcible coadunation of humanity by any means necessary.
  • Big Good: Atoning Unifex, who created the Milieu and guided it to its present state. Meaning Marc Remillard is arguably the Big Good and the Big Bad.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Remillards. Most of them are good guys, but their internal problems drive virtually the entire plot. By the end of 'Magnificat', Marc can be said to be responsible for the death of a whole lot of family members. Four siblings: Matthieu, Maddy, Jack, Cyndia. On the executive focus team, who die at the end of the Rebellion, are his uncles Severin and Adrien, his aunt Catherine, and his theoretical father-in-law, Rory Muldowney. And on Jack's side are Paul and Dorothea, his father and his sister-in-law.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Fury and Hydra are dead, but so is Denis, and the best and brightest of the Remillard family with him. Mental Man has been destroyed, and Marc rendered infertile and sent into Exile. The Rebellion is broken, and humanity will survive and achieve its destiny, but that means that all of metapsychic humanity will be forced into coadunation whether they like it or not, except for Rogi, while nonpsychic humanity will be imprisoned or killed if they won't get with the program, or else left to slowly die out.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Jack to Diamond on their first wedding anniversary: "You change into something comfortable. I'll put away your flask of algiprote purée and set the table and grow a digestive tract."
  • Bridal Carry: Jack carries Dorothée out of the deep-driller like this in the end of Diamond Mask. They get married later.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Marc Remillard and Cyndia Muldowney, who is his half sister although neither of them are aware of it at first.
    • And artificially with Marc and Madeleine (real brother and sister) in creating the Mental Man babies. And not artificially when Madeleine is in her disguise as Lynelle Rogers.
    • Also Twincest with Dierdre and Diarmid Keogh.
  • Cain and Abel - Rogi and Don a little in Intervention, considering Rogi was toying with killing his brother, and also a little Denis and Victor, although the prime example is Marc and Jon at the end of the Rebellion. Also prenatal Marc and his twin Matthieu: they were found trying to strangle each other to death in the womb.
  • The Casanova: Paul. The darker consequences of his affairs are given a lot of attention.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A throwaway line from the first book, that parents are generally immune to their children's psychic powers. this comes back in a big way when the Remillards attempt to exorcise Fury from Denis.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Quite narrowly averted with Dorothée, who becomes Dirigent of Caledonia at twenty, although the age of majority in the Milieu is sixteen.
  • Cliffhanger: At the end of Diamond Mask.
    "And then Anne Remillard spoiled it all by coming into my bookshop and telling me that Denis was Fury."
  • Child Prodigy: Marc and Jack, who later become Teen Genii as well. Also Dorothée, who actually refers to herself as this as a five-year-old.
  • Cool Mask: Diamond Mask.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Rogi.
  • Dartmouth For Everyone - Although justified because the Remillards and Macdonald that go there are all incredibly clever anyway.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The start of the Rebellion is broadcast on TV across the galaxy, and every psychic is involved in the end.
  • Driven to Suicide: Laura Tremblay. In a rather Squicky way too. Also, Teresa, who doesn't take young Jack's decomposition well.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Climax of the Metapsychic Rebellion.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Rogatien has many flaws, but he reduced Parni to ash at Jack and Diamond's wedding, and he did kill Fury.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Marc Remillard is obsessed with creating a new Human Subspecies of metapsychic paramounts through careful application of eugenics.
  • Family Disunion: The Remillards get together for Christmas 2078... and the Dynasty try to exorcise Denis, who is unknowingly Fury.
  • Fetus Terrible:
    • Jon Remillard being the most obviously powerful, though many characters count including Marc who kills his twin in the womb.
    • Hydra
    • Mental Man
  • Five-Man Band: Fury and Hydra after Gordo's death
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Jack finds it easier to interact with ordinary humans when he's wearing a human shape.
  • Framing Device: Uses a framing device of an autobiography written by Uncle Rogi, the nail who constantly diverts human history while passing unnoticed.
  • Goo Goo Godlike: Jack and Marc both have enormous metapsychic power as babies- Marc believes that Jack and Teresa summoned him to Earth in a metaconcert when Jack was a five-month foetus.
  • Gratuitous French:
    • Many of the Remillards occasionally speak in French, although this is a Justified Trope, as the family has French roots and after the introduction of English as humanity's official language using one's ancestral tongue is said to be very fashionable.
    • In the case of Rogi, he was raised speaking French and is really incredibly stubborn.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Both the Rebels and the Unity are portrayed as having their good points.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Marc becomes steadily more jealous of Jack, thinking that he is a step up in evolution from the rest of humanity, and this is the root of his desire to create more Jacks through Mental Man.
    • Hydra is also envious of Fury's preoccupation with Marc which leads Gordo to try to kill him but only kill and expose himself in the process.
  • The Hero Dies: Jack and Diamond are both killed. Although this is obvious once you see their death dates on the family tree. Unifex also dies at the end of Magnificat, again pointed out by family tree.
  • Humans Are Special: Special dispensation given to humanity to make sure they don't kill themselves before entering galactic society. Where upon they become better at everything than everyone within 70 years of contact.
  • Human Subspecies: A sort of metaphorical one. "Homo summus" ("high man") is a reference to humans who have abandoned physical incarnation and exist solely as brains or mental beings. Jack the Bodiless is the first example, but this is also the end goal of the Mental Man project, and the end form of Marc Remillard. The term "homo superior" is also used to refer to operants.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The grey limbo, not to mention the pain barrier required to get there.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: The Remillards' self-rejuvenating gene kicks in at slightly different ages for them all, but (with the obvious exception of Jack) they do grow to adulthood normally and then just stop aging. Anne's aging is said to have stopped in her early forties.
  • Icy Gray Eyes: Marc has gray eyes of the cold and strong-willed variety. Unifex often likes to have gray eyes in the bodies he creates for himself as well.
  • Improbable Age: Some of the really powerful humans (Marc, Jack and Dorothée) are admitted to the Concilium at sixteen. This is because they're all extremely powerful paramount metapsychics and mentally far beyond most adults.
  • Insufferable Genius: Jack a little, before he learns to be tactful about it.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Marc takes a few months off Rebel business just after he and Cyndia marry. He doesn't recover until Cyndia tells him she's pregnant.
  • In Vino Veritas: Rory Muldowney confronting Paul about Laura's suicide
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night - Start of Jack The Bodiless.
  • I Am Not My Father: For several years in his early adult life Marc tries to convince himself he is asexual. One of his main reasons is his disgust at his father's womanising.
  • I Have Many Names: Rogi devotes a couple of paragraphs to this for Dorothea Macdonald at the beginning of Diamond Mask: among her names and nicknames are Dee, Dody, Doro, Dodo, Dorrie, Dorothée, and later Diamond, Diamond Mask, and Illusio.
  • Kissing Cousins: Adrienne refers to Caroline and Dougie in Jack the Bodiless, and she herself is trying to hide her crush on Marc. Paul and Teresa are cousins, sharing Don as a grandfather. The Hydras.
  • Little Miss Badass: Fifteen-year-old Dorotheé is trying to hunt down the Hydras.
  • The Mafia: Psychic mafia no less. Connor runs this in Intervention.
  • The Magocracy: The Concilium is limited to operants.
  • Masquerade Ball: In Diamond Mask. Dorothée gatecrashes and uses it as an opportunity to probe Remillards.
  • Meaningful Name: Yes, Atoning Unifex is the primary instigator of Unity in two galaxies, and is definitely atoning for something.
  • Mirror Match:
    • Via a Stable Time Loop through the Saga of the Exiles Marc Remillard is actually leading both the Galactic Milieu and the Rebellion against it.
    • Sampled earlier, when Atoning Unifex quite thoroughly and easily quashes a pubescent Marc Remillard's scheme to steal a starship and escape to where his mother and Rogi are hiding.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Subverted: you'd think "Jack the Bodiless" was a name for a terrifying villain. Actually, Jon's a freakish mutant without a body, but he's also a saint and utterly devoted to the welfare of humanity, even if he's not specifically part of it.
  • Nepotism: An accepted part of Milieu politics.
  • Older Than They Look: People are able to be rejuvenated to make themselves look young again. Additionally, many of the Remillards are also self-rejuvenating. Rogi is a hundred and fifty or so at the end of the books but he hasn't aged past his fifties.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Atoning Unifex knows what's destined to happen because he lived through it; it's his job to make sure everything that must happen ultimately leads to the coadunation of humanity.
  • Physical God: Paramount operants, when equipped with 600x cerebroenergetic enhancers, are capable of wrecking planets with their minds (especially in metaconcert). Even without Marc's tech, though, they're capable of warping reality in their immediate area.
  • Power Levels:
    • Random numbers thrown in occasionally, but any psychic is given a power grading in each school. Operant, Adept, Master, Grandmaster and Paramount Grandmaster. Guess which race has lots of Paramounts.
    • Humanity has six, and only three are officially recognized as such. The Lylmik? Rumor has it, all of them.
    • Marc, Jack, and Diamond Mask are officially recognized by the Galactic Milieu as Paramount Grand Master operants. Denis/Fury Is the unofficial fourth, although imperfectly trained and hampered by its dual nature. Mental Man doesn't count, as they were produced artificially and murdered en masse before they were "born". Two more are found in the Pliocene Exile series: Aiken Drum, who unwittingly shares the Remillard genome and magnified his own capabilities in a unique way; and Felice, who is easily the most powerful operant seen in the combined series, explicitly an entire magnitude more powerful than Marc wearing full 600x cerebroenergetic armor.
  • Power Perversion Potential: It's explicitly stated that metapsychic powers are used by many operants to enhance sex, to the point where an encounter between Jack and Diamond Mask is eventually performed purely through metacreative stimulation while Jack is in brain form.
  • Psychic Powers: In spades in all the books.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The books centre around Humanity's place in the already well established Milieu, who at least initially have the power of life and death over the entire human race.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Lylmik, especially Unifex, take the form of relatively young humans on occasion, but are really millions of years old.
  • The Reveal:
    • at the very end of Intervention when Rogi addresses Atoning Unifex as Marc. Unless you figured it out before then.
    • Also a bit of a Luke, I Am Your Father moment (although the readers already know) when Rogi announces to Cloud and Hagen that the suspiciously familiar Lylmik is actually their six-million-year old father, still in the process of atoning for his past sins.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Marc Remillard is quite aware that the only way that the Rebels will be allowed to secede from the Milieu is if they win their independence by force of arms, and is willing to wipe out planets and create abominations of mental power in the lab if that's what it takes to get the Milieu to leave humanity alone.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The Hydras. And Victor.
  • Satan: Marc Remillard is referred to as both Abaddon and The Angel of the Abyss towards the end of the Rebellion. Also rather curiously inverted in his later incarnation as Atoning Unifex, who resembles God far more than the devil. He goes so far as to remind Rogi that he is not, when asked if he can foresee the time of the latter's death. "Moi, je ne suis pas le bon dieu, j't'assure!"
  • Screaming Birth: Averted when Teresa gives birth to Jack: she's the calmest one there.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: If anyone did object, Atoning Unifex would have squashed them quickly, because the Remillards need to be the leaders of humanity when everything melts down.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!:
    • Keiren O'Conner and Victor Remillard make their money by unscrupulous use of their metapsychic powers.
    • Despite knowing this financial and manufacturing empire was gained via criminal means that violate the Altruism Ethic that was a required part of Humanity entering the Milieu, no one anywhere seems to have a problem with the Remillard family keeping all of Victor and Keiren's wealth.
  • Squishy Wizard: Even powerful human operants are vulnerable when exhausted or off their guard.
  • Stable Time Loop: See Mirror Match. Even more generally, Marc Remillard, one of the near-ultimate evolutions of humanity, goes back in time and, by his manipulation, ensures that he and the other Remillards will be born on schedule.
  • Surprise Incest: Paul's affair with Laura Tremblay produces Cyndia, and she and Marc find out a couple of years into their marriage that they're actually half-siblings. They don't really care.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Mostly because of the incest. Don is Denis' father, and thus the ancestor of the Dynasty, but he's also the father of Annarita Latimer, making Teresa his granddaughter, and she marries Paul. Paul is also the grandfather both ways of Hagen and Cloud. There's a family tree printed in each book. It gets complicated.
  • Taking You with Me: Teresa attempts to drag Jack along with her when she suicides.
  • Threat Backfire: A poor choice of words version: Marc tells Jack, a six-month-old baby, that certain knowledge would scare the crap out of him. Jack replies, succinctly, "Diapers."
  • Twin Telepathy: Quite literally with Rogi and Don.
  • Twisted Christmas: The Dynasty perform the operation to get rid of Fury, who is residing inside Denis, on Christmas Day.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • In the exterior of the Frame, the reader is told practically the entire outcome before the start of each book.
    • The family tree also points out exactly who dies and when.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Averted. The prologue explains that the narrator's unique position means he's the only person who can tell the full and true tale to the galaxy.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • The Simbiari attitude towards humanity. That little thing called "freedom" was the first thing to go by the wayside.
    • Atoning Unifex tells the other Lylmik that the Metapsychic Rebellion has to happen, with all the loss of life that this entails, for humanity to finally Unify.
    • Unification itself is being forcibly imposed on all of metapsychic humanity. Opting out is not an option, and nonpsychic humans are to be phased out.
  • Villainous Incest: The Hydras are first cousins, and after Gordo's death are all cheerfully screwing each other. Although considering all the other incest in the books treated with a reasonable degree of sympathy (more cousins, siblings, half-siblings, and Victor and Denis being abused by their father as babies and becoming a monster and the core personality of Fury, respectively), this doesn't come off as particularly remarkable.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Marc Remillard is willing to do anything, up to and including incest, murder and even genocide, to protect humanity from the Unity that the Galactic Milieu is imposing on them.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Super?: Non-operant humans have no voice in their own government; while the majority of humanity is strongly opposed to Unity and supports the rebellion, only the operants matter (and a firm majority of operants back Unity). Even the Intervention was done by the request of a metaconcert of operants; no one else was asked if they wanted to be taken over by the Simbiari.

Alternative Title(s): Intervention, Jack The Bodiless


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