It’s not often that authors get a second chance to tell their stories. There are exceptions, though (one of my favorites being William Peter Blatty’s rewrite of his novel Twinkle Twinkle “Killer” Kane into the novel and movie The Ninth Configuration).
Another writer who’s gotten a second chance is F. Paul Wilson, whose 1978 novel The Tery has been revised and reissued with illustrations by Stephen Fabian. I haven’t read the original novel, but the new definitive edition is an interesting work, more for its possibilities than for what it actually is.
On an unnamed planet, the local despot is persecuting what seem to be two very different inhabitants of his realm: The Talents, people with psychic abilities, and the teries, creatures that appear to be gorillas but who can think, reason, and speak like humans. When a tery’s parents are murdered and the tery himself is wounded and left for dead, a group of Talents hiding from the local despot care for the tery and realize that he not a beast but another type of human. The tery and some of the Talents join forces to stop the local despot from gaining access to a long-hidden cache of weapons that would allow the despot to wipe out Talents and teries alike for good.
The Tery, like its titular protagonist, is an odd beast. It has too much plot and detail for a short story, yet it’s not long enough to be a successful novel. Two of the most pivotal characters, Talents named Rab and Tlad, aren’t fleshed out enough. One of the most interesting characters, Adriel, who isn’t a Talent but can locate other Talents, doesn’t have enough to do. Large chunks of backstory are served up in lengthy exposition. The main quest doesn’t have the sense of urgency it needs, and consequently the climactic events don’t have the emotional resonance Wilson was clearly aiming for. A longer book would give Wilson the opportunity to better develop both the characters and the conflict.
But The Tery does have much in its favor, namely its interesting protagonist, who while having many admirable qualities never becomes the Noble Savage cliché. And there are some interesting ideas about the power of myth, and how myths can be created to effect real change in society.
The book is available from Overlook Connection Press in a hardcover and a trade paperback edition, both with black-and-white illustrations originally commissioned in 1978 (these illustrations, previously seen in poorly printed editions that didn’t do the pictures justice, help breathe life into the novel).