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The Many-Coloured Land

(Saga of the Pliocene Exile #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  10,901 ratings  ·  409 reviews
When a one-way time tunnel to Earth's distant past, specifically six million B.C., was discovered by folks on the Galactic Milieu, every misfit for light-years around hurried to pass through it. Each sought his own brand of happiness. But none could have guessed what awaited them. Not even in a million years....
Paperback, 415 pages
Published 1981 by Pan Books
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Mark Lawrence
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
According to the publisher Angry Robot, Julian May has died, age 86.

The sad news has motivated to review this book, which I haven't read in 30 years.

I think it was Julian May who gave me the taste for mixing fantasy and science fiction. This, excellent, series is set mainly in the Pliocene era of Earth, where miscreants from our distant future are exiled via a time portal.

Back in this past, several million years before our time, these futuristic exiles try to make a life for themselves with

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
This was a surprisingly good read, but I suppose I shouldn't have been that surprised. It won the Locus and was nominated for both the '82 Hugo and '81 Nebula, after all.

I had this odd assumption that it was all fantasy from the bookcovers I'd known and from the comments I'd heard, and that's true as far as most of the story elements are concerned, but at its core, it's Hard SF with a huge dash of space opera, a truly epic amount of world-building in both the future and 6 million years in the
I read this back in the mid 80's, soon after I had finished all of J.R.R. Tolkien's novels and Stephen R. Donaldson's Covenant series. It so intrigued me that I read the entire four book series in a week or two. I eventually read the rest of Julian May's works, but with less enthusiasm.

The Pliocene Epic was intriguing because it was a time travel science fiction story with psi powers thrown on top. It sometimes felt like fantasy, with what seemed like magic, but you knew it was really
A re-read as a refresher before tackling the rest of the series. I remember reading it while on vacation a number of years ago at a friend’s cabin and staying up far too late in order to finish the book. I originally gave it 5 excited stars from that reading and I think I will leave that score intact to reflect my first excitement about the work. Despite my initial enthusiasm, I am amazed at how many details were completely wiped from my memory banks—as a result, I enjoyed my second read almost ...more
Kat  Hooper
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Many-Colored Land, a classic (1981) science fantasy novel by Julian May, wasn’t too high on my TBR list until I noticed that Blackstone Audio released it last month. I like science fantasy, so I gave it shot, and I sure am glad I did. I loved every moment of The Many-Colored Land and my only disappointment is that the rest of The Saga of Pliocene Exile is not available on audio.

The story begins on Earth and the rest of the Galactic Milieu in our 22nd
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
For me and, I suspect, many others, one of the things that makes SF uniquely fun is being dumped into a world that is far-future or otherwise alien and having to figure out how it all works and maybe how we got there from here: having culture/future shock and coming to terms with it as the book progresses. In this book, May treats us to a prolonged description of the galaxy spanning culture that humans have joined (it reminds me of Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books, without the humour and ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Brooks
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Once more I picked up an old favorite to see if it still resonated. This time, the inspiration was the trailer for Stephen Spielberg's new series, Terra Nova which, as I watched, reminded me of May's series and I wonder if there is a relationship there? The show hasn't screened in Australia yet and I am looking forward to it starting. In the meantime, however, I found my copy of TMCL. it was marvelous revisiting and once again being captivated by such a powerful novel and idea: that a mixed ...more
David Firmage
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyable mix of fantasy and sci-fi. Takes a bit of patience as it is quite slow to begin with and as it over 30 years old has an older vocabulary and style. I will trying to source a new copy of the second book.
Alan Denham
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: just-paper
The Many-Coloured Land

This is one of the possible starting points in an enormously complex epic covering four thick volumes set mostly in the Pliocene and four more set in something recognisably parallel to our present and near future.
Thick volumes! The paperbacks on my shelves are mostly around 500 pages, and all eight together take up just over a foot of shelf space!

The Many Coloured Land begins in our near future. Earth has been accepted into a galaxy including half a dozen alien races, all
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very original and entertaining, good start to a series.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of stong character and setting development as well as fans of "Falling Skies"
This book became an instant favorite within a few short chapters as I started to meet all the characters. I regret terribly that the author of this series doesn't want it to go to television or film, but I do understand her fear that it would not be true to the world that she created. They're all cast and mini-series-ready in my head if she changes her mind and ever wants my input.

The book starts in the future when humans have populated various planets in the universe and come to peaceful
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The scope of this saga spanning eight novels is staggering. A gate is opened to the past, specifically the Pliocene era. But it is a one-way trip. Adventurous souls travel back, and find a world unlike any they could imagine. Epic conflict rages between ancient races, and the future destiny of man is decided. The initial four books make up The Saga of Pliocene Exile.

* The Many-Coloured Land
* The Golden Torc
* The Nonborn King
* The Adversary

These can be read as a standalone series, but who
Michael R.
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow! What a concept! When a time wormhole is discovered to 6,000,000 BC, bored adventurers looking for excitement and having nothing on earth let to explore, take the one way trip into the unknown...

Sounds fun!

Except... unbeknowst to the wary time travelers... an exotic race already exists in 6M B.C., is well aware of the time tunnel, and posts guards to enslave everyone coming through!

What a shocker. This first book in the series sets up for much intrigue to come, as we follow eight of the
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes nostalgia takes over and I am tempted to re-read something from my past. Knowing there are so many books I'll never get to, I don't typically read books again, but I like to allow myself one book a year or so to indulge the urge to go back.

Ever since the ill-fated TV show Terra Nova hit the air, I have been bitterly reminded of Julian May's enjoyable Pliocene Exile series. Aspects of Terra Nova, ie. people being exiled into the distant past, reminded me of May and her excellent books.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is difficult to review without spoilers. Suffice it to say there is *a lot* going on, with multiple sci-fi and fantasy elements woven together into a story of ambitious scope. Very skilled authors can sometimes make that work, but often such stories collapse under their own weight. That seems to be the case here, although the story works on some levels and still remains somewhat engaging throughout.

The story starts out squarely as science fiction but then evolves into what feels like an
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting tale to set up the series, it started out a bit haphazard with different characters and various tidbits, but later it settled in nicely to a more of an Ursula Le Guin feel {for me}. It is a mix of Riverworld, along with Terra nova that zigs into the realms of HG Wells The time machine. I enjoyed it not being too overly simplified and clear cut, but rather showing the different aspects and point of views in various situations.
Storyline: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 4/5
World: 5/5

This was a well-told story.

Before I proceed to lavish it with praise, I wish to detail what this was not and what it did not do. It was not speculative fiction: I tend to favor books that explore ideas - political systems, religion, social structures, technological progress - but this was not exploratory ideology, metaphysics, social criticism, or hard science fiction. This was not a thriller: May didn't rely on pumping the reader with
Robert Defrank
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Assorted oddballs who don’t fit in a regimented far-future galactic civilization time travel through a one-way portal back to the Pliocene era in search of a frontier and homestead to live their lives in freedom. By some trick of time, sending people into the distant past will have no effect on the future reality, so the governments of the galaxy are happy to send excess and energetic people into the past, so to relieve the excess pressure on society.

On arriving in the past, however, the humans
* kyrat
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
I picked up this book after having it recommended to me by friends who are also scifi/fantasy fans. I struggled through the first third of the book bored out of my mind as she introduces too many characters, seemingly unrelated and goes into their background story which I don't care about and just confuses me,plus 1 set of aliens seemingly unconnected with the rest of the story and finally 1 set of preshistoric humans who also seem unrelated. My boyfriend noticed I was reading it and said he'd ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A while ago I stopped into a used book store and was astounded to discover all four volumes of this series. I had had this recommended to me by a visitor to my site several years ago.
The story started off with a great premise: People who have become disenchanted with life in 2030 elect to start a new life in 6000 B.C., thanks to a newly discovered portal. Actually, the portal is built by
some scientist based on a newly discovered phenomenon of magnetic conduits through the earth's crust.
Casey Hampton
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
If I never encounter the word milieu again it'll be too damn soon. Seriously, someone please do a word count on how many times milieu comes up in this book. Here's the short of it, a great idea that was bungled. The author is far too heavy-handed and melodramatic for any of the characters to be more than predictable archetypal cutouts.

The first little bit is good but trust me, it's all downhill after that. What does it say when the best part of this book was when they got their Pleistocene
Dec 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This first book of a trilogy starts out as a rollicking adventure of time-travel and displaced worlds. When I read it back in 1982 I got the same sense of thrill I received when I first read Phillip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go; that I was beginning a journey to somewhere I never been. Unfortunately it just didn't happen. May is no Farmer. While starting out beautifully, the novel gets bogged down with too many characters and too little development. It is like the author knows he ...more
Timothy Boyd
Good solid SiFi read. Lots of interesting concepts for story plot. The first book seemed a little slow to me, almost as if it was setting up the series. I am looking forward to the rest of the series to see where the writer takes things. Recommended
Strong 3.5

This was a long read, and by the time it ended, I was ready for it to be over. There's a lot more to the story, and I'll probably pick up the sequel, but man, I need a break!

The scope, and ambition of the book is admirable, but the multiple threads sometimes got away from the author. It didn't help that the book was packed with characters, many of them getting a scene or two in the spotlight. If the story had stuck with the first eight characters introduced at the beginning of the
Premise: When life is complicated by technology and intergalactic relations, time travel is, ironically, the only refuge for the anachronistic personality. Eight characters with various motives travel back in time to the Pliocene era to start afresh. But none of them expected to find that others already had the same idea…1981 Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (1982), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1981), Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1982)

Why I Read It: A
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a creative, action-packed book that truly encompasses both scifi and fantasy in a beautiful way.

Since this is the first book of the series, it takes a bit to set the plot up and get to know the characters. People are sent through the time travel portal in groups, so we get to know everyone in one group prior to going through the time portal so we can follow them all after they go through it. May spends the perfect amount of time familiarizing the reader with the future world, as well as
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The amount of research that Julian May put forth for this book is simply incredible. She knowledgeably speaks about everything from geology and paleontology to sailing to astronomy - everything except, perhaps, genetics. Because - lets get this out of the way now - this is an aliens-came-to-earth-to-impregnate-your-women book. Now, I'm hoping that Julian has something up her sleeve that will excuse the fact that aliens from the other side of the galaxy can interbreed with humans with no genetic ...more
Simon Mcleish
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on my blog here in June 1998.

The Many Coloured Land is the first of Julian May's Exiles series set in the Pleistocene, and was one of my favourite speculative fiction books in my teenage years. I've been putting off re-reading it for two reasons: firstly, I was waiting until I had copies of my own of the four books in the series, and secondly, I was rather apprehensive that I wouldn't think it so good this time round.

The book still seems original even fifteen years on. The
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Julian May was an American science fiction, fantasy, horror, science and children's writer who also used several pseudonyms including Ian Thorne, Lee N. Falconer and many others.

Other books in the series

Saga of the Pliocene Exile (4 books)
  • The Golden Torc (Saga of the Pliocene Exile, #2)
  • The Nonborn King (Saga of the Pliocene Exile, #3)
  • The Adversary (Saga of Pliocene Exile, #4)
“You have always been alone, always self-centered and fearful of opening yourself to other persons, for to do so is to risk rejection and pain. But it is a risk we are born to take, we humans. We cannot live alone, cannot find happiness or peace alone, cannot love alone. The person alone must always be fleeing, always searching. He flees from the loneliness without end. He searches, whether he will or not, for another who will fill his emptiness.” 16 likes
“Only those who are bereaved of all joy in this present world may take refuge in the shadows of the past.” 0 likes
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