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Literature / Tower and the Hive

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The Tower and the Hive series (also known as the Rowan and the Talents series) is a sci-fi series by Anne McCaffrey.

The series is set against a backdrop of a technologically advanced future society in which telepathy, telekinesis and other psychic abilities have become scientifically accepted and researched. Telekinetic and telepathic powers are used to communicate and teleport spaceships through space, thus avoiding the light barrier and allowing for the colonization of other solar systems. Books in the series include:

  • The Rowan (1990): The story of The Rowan, an orphaned Prime Talent, as she deals with life, loneliness and a possible alien invasion.
  • Damia (1992): The Rowan's sequel is part straight sequel, part-P.O.V. Sequel and part backstory for Afra Lyon, a secondary character from the previous book. The book is mostly about the relationship between Afra and the most important women in his life (his beloved older sister, The Rowan and The Rowan's middle child, Damia). And another alien invasion.
  • Damia's Children (1993) and Lyon's Pride (1994) stars Damia and Afra's kids who work with humanity's new alien allies, the Mrdini, to deal with the threat of the Hivers - the insectoid race responsible for the attacks in The Rowan.
  • The Tower and The Hive (1999): The wrap-up to the threat of the Hivers (and probably the series itself after McCaffrey's death).

The origins of the scientific recognition of Talents, and of the interstellar network, are depicted in the To Ride Pegasus trilogy.

Two early short stories, "The Lady in the Tower" and "A Meeting of Minds", were written in 1959 and 1969, and collected in Get Off the Unicorn; edited versions of the stories were incorporated into The Rowan and Damia.

The Tower and the Hive series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc
    • Zara's mental connection with the captive Hiver queen at the end of Damia's Children. It looked to be forshadowing Zara's part in the ultimate endgame, but was pretty much shrugged off with "No one knows how she did it, not even Zara," and she was eventually Put on a Bus (shipped off to train as a medical Prime).
    • Similarly, Damia made a point of speculating on the effects of the anti-hiver mega-merge on The Rowan's second child, Cera (in-utero at the time) and the subsequent attempt to bond her to her older brother, Jeran, to try and stablize her. Unlike their younger siblings, Daria and Larak, that bond was never portrayed, in-story, outisde of mentions in Damia of very young Jeran and Cera being extra close, to the blatant exclusion of Damia. And outside of a throwaway line about Cera having "odd notions", nothing came of the "possible effects" angle.
  • The Ace: Jeff Raven. A "Wild Talent" from a boondocks colony no one had ever heard of until aliens attacked it. He first shows up as a mental presence in the middle of The Rowan. By the end of the book, not only are he and the title character a couple (with a child), he's on the fast track to take over as head of Federated Teleport & Telepath - a position The Rowan had been considered for.
  • As You Know: The final novel in the Tower and the Hive series opens with a scene in which not only do the characters recap the previous novels to each other, but in order to make it clear to the reader who he's talking about, Thian Gwyn-Lyon refers to his grandparents as "Jeff Raven and Angharad Gwyn, a.k.a. the Rowan".
  • Babies Ever After: Every story arc of the series has ended with the main female character pregnant (the Rowan was pregnant with her second at the end of The Rowan.)
  • Blind Jump: When the Talents are 'pushing' ships, they are very careful to keep contact with the ship until the receiving Talent has hold, as there are stories of them being "lost".
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: How the Hiver threat is ultimately dealt with - though here, it was not so much Mind Rape as introducing them to a pheromone cocktail that turns them from The Swarm to peaceful agrarians.
  • Brown Note: Any Talent in proximity to anything Hiver-made experiences a sensation known as "sting-pzzt", which makes them edgy and irritable.
  • Bug War: Against the Hivers, an insectoid race trying to exterminate humans.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Afra, twice: once with The Rowan - though she already knew, once with Damia - who couldn't either.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Every important character must be attached by the end of The Tower And The Hive, even if the Mrdini have to rewrite someone's sexuality to make it happen. No exceptions.
  • Combined Energy Attack: Merges (Talents combining their power to one quasi-gestalt) are standard operating procedure for pushing Tower freight. More powerful merges are used as Wave Motion Guns against alien motherships.
  • Companion Cube: The Rowan and the Pukha (a stuffed toy she was given that hides a raft of monitoring devices). She knows it's "just" a toy, but she still has (one-sided) conversations with it.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Laria - named after her late uncle, Larak.
  • Demoted to Extra: Damia's older siblings. Once the story shifts to Damia and Afra's children, Jeran and Cera are barely ever mentioned.
  • Death by Origin Story: The Rowan's entire family (and all records saying who she was) were wiped out by a freak mudslide.
  • Death Is Cheap: For some Mrdini. They're born to parents, like humans, but unlike humans, the Mrdini parents can get together and essentially create another Mrdini that is exactly the same as the dead one. Unfortunately, if one or both of the parents die, this obviously isn't possible. When the hibernatory on Clarf has a power failure, the result is catastrophic because so many who died couldn't be recreated, or couldn't recreate others who died.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Subverted — No one thinks giving the Rowan to Siglen to be trained as a Prime is the best idea — Siglen is a great Prime but an otherwise horrible person. But there's no one else on the planet qualified to teach her and sending her elsewhere would do more harm than good, thanks to Travel Sickness.
  • Differently Powered Individual: The Talents.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Once the Talents figure out where the engine cores of Hiver ships were and develop the strategy of teleporting live warheads directly into them, the conflict becomes mostly about finding ways to stop the Hivers without committing genocide. Later, humanity found a pheromone combination that turned the Hivers from Borg-like aggressive conquerors to more docile, agrarian types.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Averted, as the Talents allow mankind to circumvent the light barrier entirely via interstellar teleportation.
  • First Contact: The series depicts humanity's first encounters with two separate alien species - the first is an insectoid race trying to exterminate humans; the second is a compatibly sentient species impressed by our ability to defeat the first and trying to ally with us against them.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: Several Talents have been shown to have unique abilities in addition to the standard telepathy and/or telekinesis: Damia has her Super Empowering ability. The Rowan's twin subordinates, Mick and Mawi, have a lesser version of Damia's power when in a merge together. Afra... Can detect when a woman is pregnant and identify the child's sex, even before the mom-to-be can tell.
  • Generational Saga: The sequel novels to The Rowan centering around the Rowan's children and grandchildren.
  • Genocide Dilemma: In the last book of the series, humans and Mrdini debate whether it is moral to simply nuke the Hivers out of existence. Eventually, they make a discovery that provides an alternative.
  • The Ghost: Damia's youngest sibling, Ezro.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Damia takes her little brother camping and tells him a scary story. She ends up scaring him so much that he does his best to set the forest on fire.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Because the Mrdini planets are so overpopulated, some high officials decide to perform an experiment in a popular hibernatory to see if they can reduce the birth rate. It ends up killing hundreds and badly injuring even more.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Rowan is rather high-maintenance. Part of Peter Reidinger's job is keeping her staff somewhat together.
  • High Turnover Rate: Afra is the first of Rowan's right-hand men to last more than a few months.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Hivers.
  • 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.
  • Humanity Is Superior: The Mrdini have been fighting the Hivers for hundreds of years. Humanity figures out how to swat them down for good within a couple of generations (during which the Hivers were only briefly a real threat).
  • Hurl It into the Sun: It's what the Talents do to the first Hiver invasion ship.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Afra's attitude towards The Rowan, whom he'd been in love with for years before Jeff Raven swooped in.
  • If I Can't Have You…/Taking You with Me: Sodan, the psychic entity trying to seduce Damianote  used the last of his strength to try and kill Afra after he'd picked up on Damia's feelings for him. It should be noted that Afra, Damia's parents and Damia's brother Larak were trying to destroy him at the time. He ended up killing Larak and knocking the others out of commission for weeks.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Gay Kincaid sleeping with his straight best friend, Laria, because they were both lonely and hurting over bad breakups. Turns out their Mrdini companions mentally "nudged" them towards each other. They didn't really mind.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: A telepathic variant. The Rowan and Jeff Raven are having "a late breakfast" in her quarters. Afra discreetly informs her that she's "broadcasting".
  • It's All About Me: Siglen can't really comprehend that other people might have needs not related to her. The Rowan is much better, but as her apprentice, still inherits some of her sense of self-importance.
  • Kissing Cousins: Rojer and Asia Eagles, his cousin of unclear distance.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Even after The Rowan recovers her memories and remembers her real namenote , most people refer to her as "The Rowan". Averted by Peter Reidinger, who made a point of calling her by her birth name, once he knew it.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The Rowan's real name is known by everyone who cared to know it by the end of the first book (and was explicitly entered as her legal name on her marriage license). Her kids and grandkids all have hyphenated last names.
  • Lamarck Was Right: The Rowan's hair turned white because of trauma, and her descendants' white streaks are a family trait. (Of course, at least one previous Talent was strongly suspected of being capable of manipulating genetics, as an extension of healing nerve damage, so this might be from an unintentional case on the Rowan's part.)
  • Locked into Strangeness: The Rowan has her hair turn totally white as a result of childhood trauma. Her children and grandchildren inherit white streaks.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: The Rowan is undisputably a good person, but she's very aware of her exalted status as a Prime (and one of the strongest, before Jeff Raven enters the picture), has poor social skills due to being raised in-house at FT&T and trained by Siglen, and is prone to temper tantrums. She mellows out a bit after meeting Afra, then getting married to Jeff Raven, but she's still a bit of a prima donna and it takes a team of Fire-Forged Friends to work as her support team. FT&T takes advantage of this when a diplomatic incident breaks out and they need to send someone to indicate their displeasure; Rowan is very intimidating, even to the Mrdini.
  • Lovable Rogue: Jeff Raven, before he gets Kicked Upstairs in the later books.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Afra Lyon can't have the Rowan, so he marries her daughter Damia. Discussed in the book where Afra rejects this accusation by saying that he and Rowan were never meant for each other.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: In Damia, the powerfully-telepathic Damia accidentally destroys the psychic abilities of her first sexual partner through Power Incontinence while having sex with him. Her father-figure had tried to warn her of the dangers of sex with less powerful telepaths, but due to his embarrassment at dealing with the subject she thought he was talking about normal contraception.
  • Mind over Manners: An essential part of the Talents' culture. The Mrdini aren't as careful about it.
  • Mind over Matter: Telekinetic abilities are key to the series, as the basis of interstellar travel.
  • Mutant Draft Board: Federated Teleport & Telepath 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.
  • My Greatest Failure: For Damia it was accidentally burning out the psychic potential of her first lover, partially from inexperience, and partially because she ignored Afra's advice to "be careful" out of spite (she assumed he meant "birth control"; he meant "keep your mental shields up or you'll fry the boy.")
  • Mystical White Hair: The Rowan has white hair, which is also inherited by her descendants of both sexes as a white streak.
  • Naming Your Colony World: The planets Altair and Deneb, orbiting the stars of those names.
  • No Biological Sex: The Mrdini lack sexes altogether, and prefer to be referred to by the pronoun "it". While they do require two individuals to reproduce, any two individuals will do.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Averted - the Talents explicitly tap external power sources for anything more than floating things across the room. When Rojer makes an emergency telepathic call to Jeff Raven in Lyon's Pride, the first thing Jeff does is reprimand Rojer for doing so with just his own energy.
  • The Nose Knows: In the final book, Pierre Laney uses his unique Talent to identify individual Hiver queens. As a sideline, he also creates new perfumes and colognes for the crew of the fleet from alien plants.
  • Parents as People: Asia's parents had a huge number of children, and as a result, as the shy, quiet one she got very used to being ignored and overlooked.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The first half of Damia is basically The Rowan through Afra Lyon's eyes.
  • Power Levels: The Talents are ranked in power from T12 (just enough power to register) to Prime (T1). To have a T1 designation requires both telepathy and telekinesis with potentially unlimited power; a superpowerful telepath or telekinetic is rated at T2. It isn't a fixed designation, though: it's perfectly possible to increase one's Talent rating over time, especially if you're working closely with very powerful Talents. Afra is rated T4 as a child, but by the time of the end of the series is T2, with some believing that he's borderline-Prime level (though still nowhere near his wife or children).
    • This is partially because Damia has the ability to "boost" other Talents in her gestalt, and due to long association it became permanent in Afra. Either way, though, Afra is certainly treated with the respect due a Prime, partially due to his closeness with Jeff, the Rowan and Damia but mostly due to his own subtle and gentle but undeniable charisma and commanding nature.
  • Psychic Teleportation: One of the psychic abilities featured in the series. The basis of the humans' interstellar civilization is high-powered psychics teleporting objects, included spacecraft, across immense distances.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Afra and the Rowan are shipped. He's the first second-in-command to last longer than a few months, the Rowan genuinely likes him and they become good friends… and then Jeff Raven turns up, and Afra immediately realizes that he's lost.
  • Sacrificial Lion: In Damia, Larak Gwyn-Raven (younger brother and closest relative of the title character) dies when he absorbs the brunt of a psychic attack meant for another. A good amount of the book is spent establishing that Larak was coming into his own as an adult, contrasting the conflicted, unsatisfied life of his older sister.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: In order to try to avert this trope, every Talent of significant strength is brought into the fold early and taught to use their powers responsibly.
  • Single Issue Psychosis: Subverted: Even as Prime Travel Sickness was found to have a single, psychosomatic cause, none of the older Primes could travel off-planet and The Rowan is explicitly shown as trying to work past it. In later books, The Rowan is explicitly stated as never leaving Callisto outside of emergencies.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Rowan. So named because she was found in the ruins of The Rowan Mining Company and with no known name, was referred to as "the Rowan child", and eventually she came to think it was her name.
  • Spin-Offspring: Damia and Afra's kids are the focus of the series's last three books.
  • Squaring the Love Triangle: The Rowan/Afra/Jeff triangle gets resolved in favour of Rowan/Jeff, and Afra is subsequently paired with their daughter Damia.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: As Talents began producing offspring together, more and stronger Talents came forth. This becomes a case of controversy in the final books, as it's pointed out that this means the Gwyn-Raven-Lyon clan essentially owns the FT&T organization because 90% of all Prime Talents are related to that family. It's treated as a big deal that one of the neophyte Primes from The Tower And The Hive isn't part of that family (She's David of Betelgeuse's granddaughter). However, it's also evident that, prior to Jeff Raven's and the Rowan's rise to prominence, many Prime talents, such as Siglen and Capella, deliberately isolated themselves from social interaction to a great degree, and the comparative lack of Prime-level talent at the beginning of The Rowan was due to the fact that high-level talents simply weren't having children (with the Reidinger family as the notable exception). While it's controversial, the lack of Primes means that it's not like the Gwyn-Raven-Lyon clan beat out the competition- there just isn't any, and the need for Primes far outstrips the numbers.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: The Mrdini have a limited ability to manipulate human dreams. This works out quite well for first contact between humanity and Mrdini: they're able to communicate through dreams until they learn enough of each other's language to do so verbally.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: The Rowan series has psychics as not only the means of communication between colonized star systems, but also the means of transportation (via Psychic Teleportation) that makes such colonies possible to begin with. From the point of view of the Mrdini, who have no psychics of their own, humans are the telepathic spacemen.
  • Time Skip: There's a generational time skip between Damia and Damia's Children: Damia just finds out she's pregnant at the end of the former, and the latter starts with that child about to take a posting as a Tower Prime.
  • Translation Convention: The Mrdini language is represented by a different font. The actual language, which contains no vowels, is described as sounding like clicking and clacking, with a couple of whistles thrown in. The only actual Mrdini speech we see are their names (like "Prtglm"), but even then the human characters come up with pet names for 'Dinis they know personally ("Gil" and "Kat" for "Grl" and "Ktg").
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Organized sex workers are, at worst, seen on about the same level as modern Western society would see a stripper. In Damia young Afra has a relationship with a "companion" who openly hoped to be more to him.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Mrdini all have names like "Prtglm".
  • Weaksauce Weakness: For all the power of a Prime, they're unable to travel through space without suffering Travel Sickness - vertigo so bad it requires hospitalization. Or so they thought.
  • Wife Husbandry: Damia falls in love with Afra, her mother's best friend and advisor, who is twenty four years older than she is and literally helped raise her from the day she was born.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The Primes' travel sickness was actually Siglen mentally imprinting her own condition (an inner-ear condition that gave her vertigo on long teleports) on every other Prime of the timenote . It didn't occur to them that this wasn't "just the way things were" until Jeff Raven showed up - a completely untrained Prime-level Talent who could teleport at will with no ill effects. Subsequent books showed The Rowan as able to teleport long distances if needed, but preferring not to.

Alternative Title(s): Damia, The Rowan