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Literature / To Ride Pegasus

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A trilogy of science fiction novels by Anne McCaffrey, consisting of To Ride Pegasus, Pegasus in Flight, and Pegasus in Space.

To Ride Pegasus (1973) is a fix-up novel combining several short stories set 20 Minutes into the Future, when a method is discovered to objectively detect and measure Psychic Powers, and features the North American Center for Parapsychic Talents, an organization that locates and trains Talented people and negotiates a safe space for them in a world that tends to find them mysterious and frightening.

Pegasus in Flight (1990) and Pegasus in Space (2000) were written concurrently with McCaffrey's Tower and the Hive series, which depicts a distant future in which powerful Talents support an interstellar civilization through instantaneous telepathic communication and the ability to teleport spacecraft over vast distances, and show the roots of that future among the Center's Talents on an overcrowded Earth just beginning to look to the stars.

The Pegasus novels contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Always Identical Twins: Sascha and Boris Roznine.
  • Bad Boss: Ludmilla Barchenka in Pegasus in Flight.
  • Broken Pedestal: A minor example, but still depressing: while they're searching for Tirla, Carmen starts to build up an idea of her as a strong, smart and talented runaway, but who is also an innocent who needs their help. When they meet, Tirla's callousness about the horrible situation the kids she rescued are in makes Carmen quite dismayed.
    • Hinted that this took place between Ludmilla Barchenka and her lancer, Per Duomhl. Between the second and third books he goes from her staunch supporter to holding immense dislike of her (it's likely the result of her Bad Boss tendencies being exposed).
  • By-the-Book Cop: Law Enforcement and Order Commissioner Boris Roznine is an excellent police officer and meticulous in managing his investigations, but he's just a little inflexible. This causes him trouble at one point when his job as as Da Chief comes into conflict with his membership in the psychic community, and he has to be told to butt out of something that the Center considers an internal matter.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: When told that, if he completes a course of physical therapy, he can have his surgery reversed and his waste bag removed, Peter is quite emphatic that he would "give anything to be able to pee and crap like an ordinary human being." In this case, his frankness is not a sign of immaturity; it's the farthest thing from it.
  • Canon Welding: Pegasus in Flight and Pegasus in Space were written to officially merge the older To Ride Pegasus to the Tower and the Hive novels.
  • Cassandra Did It: A major problem for precognizants in the early years. When something goes wrong and there's nobody else to sue, the litigious go for precogs on the theory that they could have got the warning out sooner. Eventually, it becomes a big enough problem that they have to go to the legislature for shield laws.
  • Differently Powered Individual: The Talents.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Invoked by the Big Bad of Pegasus in Flight. Unfortunately for him, his boss got the whole story and pulled the rug out from under him.
  • Disability Superpower: Peter Reidinger discovers he has powers after becoming a quadriplegic.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Stock in trade for precognitive Talents. This can be interesting because while they actually see the event, they see no more than a person standing there would; they must work back to identifying locations, people, times, etc. Henry Darrow is the exception; he focuses his predictions through astrology rather than psychic dreams.
  • Exact Words: Through the entire Padrugoi Space Station construction arc, Ludmilla Barchenka had been harassing the Talents to get the station completed on time, though there are implications that bonuses for early completion were involved but concealed by Barchenka. Her efforts to complete the station are outright to the effect of We Have Reserves, with evidence that grunts had been left to die in space without bothering to send rescues for them. The epilogue of Pegasus in Flight has her Hoist by Her Own Petard when they delay shipping the last batch of parts to the station until the estimated installation time would be precisely to the completion deadline, no earlier, no later.
  • The Federation: The United World, developed through the growth of international institutions and effectively sovereign by Pegasus in Flight. It tries to be benevolent, but is somewhat totalitarian in its enforcement of Population Control and conscription of the unemployed into highly dangerous space work. The Parapsychic Center is an independent entity, but the Center has legal authority over all Talents, and in practice Talents are employed at all levels of government and industry (which are highly linked).
  • Greater-Scope Villain: In Pegasus in Space, there's an unusual example of the prior Big Bad being promoted to this. Prince Shimaz is locked up on the Moon and isn't doing anything, not even controlling his people. However, before his imprisonment, he issued a fatwa against Peter and Tirla. Peter's assailants have no central organization to speak of; Shimaz' family relations are simply attempting to carry out that fatwa on autopilot. Ponsit Prosit is part of one such plot because of his own grudge against Peter.
  • Handicapped Badass: Peter Reidinger, who overcomes spinal damage and moves around by TK. Later repaired by Amariyah.
  • Healing Hands: Amariyah Bantam, though she doesn't know it.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Tirla is a very restricted telepath… who also happens to have a Talent that makes her fluent in every language in existence, and she can translate them effortlessly. Given that she lives in a giant community full of people who speak different languages, it's basically her full-time job.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Not all, not even most, but a significant percentage. Not a case of humans becoming psychic through future or alien tech, but of science eventually figuring out how to objectively detect and measure the potential humans had all along.
  • The Jailbait Wait: Sasha (who is in his thirties) is patiently waiting for Tirla (who is approximately 12) to grow up. They marry on her sixteenth birthday (the minimum legal age to do so in their society), and it's implied that it was Tirla who was pushing to get married so quickly.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Possibly implied with Dorotea Horvath; both she and her grandson use her maiden name.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: This is one of the reasons that the Registered Talents tend to move into the large isolated and insulated estate established for them. Living in one of the crowded, high-rise residence blocks drives them to distraction.
  • Mind over Manners: An essential part of the Talents' culture, though in To Ride Pegasus, the rules haven't been fully worked out yet and the protagonists sometimes play fast and loose with "suggestions".
  • Mind over Matter: Telekinetic abilities are key to the series, especially after the technique of drawing on outside energy sources to move greater masses greater distances is discovered.
  • Mundane Utility: Peter Reidinger discovers he has powers after becoming a quadriplegic at age thirteen; as a result he uses his "Talent" for everything, including hiding the fact that he's doing it by puppeting his own inert body, which leads to some creepy moments (as well as him literally levitating with enthusiasm early on when he forgets where his feet are in relation to the ground...)invoked
  • Mutant Draft Board: The Center don't generally force anyone to join them, but they do apply a significant amount of pressure, bribery, and in rare cases coercion to attract and keep Talents, and have legal jurisdiction over all Talented individuals. The first time a law requiring Talents to register with a Center was suggested, the Center actually said it was a stupid idea: The Center barely had the resources to process the people who came to be tested voluntarily, they'd never be able to handle mandatory testing of entire cities in a reasonable amount of time, and without that they'd never be able to enforce a Talent Registration Act. (This takes place in the first book, when they only have one small Center. In the later books, there are more and far better funded Centers, with considerably more influence.)
  • Never Say "Die": Dorotea is conspicuously absent for the epilogue of Pegasus in Space, and while there's no confirmation, the wording and Peter sadly remembering her congratulating him once strongly implies that she died of old age.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Averted - the Talents explicitly tap external power sources for anything more than floating things across the room.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Administrator Barchenka refuses to spend money on safety tethers or rescue ships for grunts who work in space, since safety would cost money and take time. This becomes a point of contention with the Center, who use the fact to blackmail her.
  • Omniglot: Tirla's psychic powers make her this.
  • One World Order: Develops through a layer of international institutions during the Pegasus trilogy. Individual nations still exist, and the United World functions as a federal government.
  • Out of Focus: While Tirla, Rhyssa, and Sascha are all viewpoint characters of the second book, the focus in the third book on the Padrugoi space station, as well as the introduction of space and military related characters, mean that their screentime becomes massively diminished. Tirla is the worst hit, she goes from the (arguable) deuteragonist to getting married and having children only mentioned in passing.
  • Patchwork Story: Three of the four sections of To Ride Pegasus are previously published short stories.
  • Population Control: Used in Pegasus in Flight, and it's an issue since Tirla was illegally born. Specifically, women who have more children than they are licensed to bear are sterilized, as are the resultant children. Illegals have all the rights of legals except the right to reproduce, but they're first in line for conscription to work on Padrugoi Space Station. Tirla escapes both fates with the aid of the Center, since she's Talented and assisted in shutting down a slaving ring. The reason why Padrugoi is so important is that it's an essential jumpoff point for extra-planetary exploration and colonization, providing someplace for the surplus population to go so that the population control laws can be relaxed.
  • Properly Paranoid: At the beginning of Pegasus in Space, there's no precog of anything going wrong, but everything seems like it's going too well, and ever-cynical Johnny Greene responds by arranging some extra security for the lighting-up ceremony on Padrugoi. Sure enough, Manager Ludmilla Barchenka attempts a hostile takeover of the space station, and Greene's agents are critical for foiling the scheme.
  • Prophecy Twist: In Pegasus in Space, there's a twist involving a lack of a prophecy. There's no precog of anything going wrong at the inauguration of the Padrugoi Space Station, but this doesn't reassure Johnny Greene, who takes some precautions anyway. Manager Ludmilla Barchenka does try to take over the Station, but is foiled by Greene and Reidinger. When quizzed about her failure to pick anything up, the duty precog pointed out that because Greene prevented it by taking initiative, the takeover didn't happen, and so there was nothing to pick up.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The Parapsychic Center has little respect for the letter of the law when it comes to recruitment, though part of this is because a lot of psychics in the To Ride Pegasus era ended up in prisons or insane asylums because of their abilities, and they were often released into the Center's hands instead. Later, Tirla is retroactively made a legal citizen (in violation of Population Control - she's a third child) as part of her recruitment; Tirla lampshades that they've got to have some really good law enforcement connections.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: In the early days the psychics form a group with a code of behavior in order to try to avert this trope. When a girl more powerful than any other psychic in the world learns how to use her powers (ironically because she saw a public service announcement by the group) she goes on a crime spree which eventually results in murder and her own death. In later books, every Talent of significant strength is brought into the fold early and taught to use their powers responsibly.
  • Self-Defeating Prophecy: This is usually how precognition works; precogs have visions of disasters, report them to the appropriate people, and frequently manage to avert them. In one incident, it was explained that the reason that the precogs didn't predict a barely averted crisis was because people guessed it might happen and took countermeasures to avert it without the need for precog.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: An unusual variant. A doctor at one point says that Peter will know that he's whole again when "the man inside you will stand up and make himself known." Peter's first sexual response to Ceara comes right after he's declared medically fit again.
  • Squishy Wizard: Peter Reidinger is the world's most powerful psychic Talent, with a totally paralyzed body. It's only because he is paralyzed, in fact, that he was able to discover his powers by telepathically calling for aid.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Psychic powers were rare, weak and unreliable until Henry Darrow's accident, subsequent hospitalization, and the first recording of a parapsychic Incident. After that, the Center began sponsoring a massive amount of research to "put a bridle on Pegasus" by scientifically analyzing how it works, reconciling psychic abilities with the laws of physics, and how to make it work better. The project finally matures with Peter Reidinger and Tomas Gadriel's collaboration, which develops the telepathic gestalt circuitry that allows for Tower Primes to teleport spaceships.
  • Super Registration Act: One of the first things the Psychics did was draft their own version, to preempt a more hostile version.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: As Talents began producing offspring together, more and more-powerful Talents came forth.
  • The Professor: Professor Tomas Gadriel, genius inventor of gestalt circuitry and Mr. Exposition for the Minovsky Physics behind psionic powers.
  • Psychic Teleportation: One of the psychic abilities featured in the series. The basis of the humans' interstellar civilization in the later books is high-powered psychics teleporting objects, included spacecraft, across immense distances.
  • Time Skip: Between To Ride Pegasus and Pegasus in Flight. Dorotea Horvath, who was about five years old at the end of the former, is now eighty-four years old and a grandmother, and we also meet the children of other characters, like Daffyd's granddaughter Rhyssa, Bruce and Amalda's (probably) grand-daughter, who's named after her grand-mother, and Boris and Sascha Roznine, who are the (probably) grandsons of Vsevolod Roznine (the book never says exactly what the twins' relationship to Vsevolod is, nor Amalda junior's relationship to Bruce and Amalda senior).
  • Time Travel: In the ending, Peter sends a colony ship not only light-years away but years into the past. This allows him to prove that he actually sent the ship where it's going, because the light from the ship would just now be reaching Earth's telescopes, instead of having to wait twenty years.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting of To Ride Pegasus.
  • Twin Telepathy: Sascha and Boris Roznine.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Early on the Talents provide a warning that saves the life of, among others, a Senator who's arguing vehemently to deny them legal protection—even though it also risks the life of their strongest defender. Undaunted, the Senator not only accuses them of perpetrating a hoax but also insists that real psychics would have known better.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Tirla's twins, Mischa and Miriam.
  • Wife Husbandry: Tirla marries Sascha (thirty-something) on her sixteenth birthday, or pretty much the instant she was legally allowed to. Although he hadn't raised her since birth, he had taken on a protective, father-figure role in her life since she was about age twelve.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The first Pegasus story has coincidence and destiny completely override Henry Darrow's brain when he tries to avoid his fated car crash, because everything rides on him being critically injured, sent to the one hospital in the area with an EEG sensitive enough to detect psychic powers, meeting Molly, and finding scientific proof of the existence of Talent. Afterwards, however, this is averted; having knowledge of a precog allows you to change the event. Double Subverted by Henry's later heart attack; he could have chosen to have a heart transplant before his expiration date, but he figured that by that time, he'd have lived a full life and be glad to pass his legacy on to the next generation.

Alternative Title(s): Pegasus In Flight, Pegasus In Space