by David Hebblethwaite
The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass by Vera Nazarian
Vera Nazarian is the kind of writer whose work leaves an impression. I've read only one novel and one short story of hers; but, both times, I have been struck by a rich imagination and a wonderfully poetic writing style. The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass is a little different - but only a little, and certainly not in a bad way.
Far in the future, when the distinctions between 'fantasy' and 'science fiction' are meaningless, the Pacific Ocean has dwindled to a (relatively) small body of polluted water, and the human population is concentrated in two cities on the edge and floor of the basin. Humankind has itself evolved beyond primitive old homo sapiens - but has also lost the ability to reproduce. So the species perpetuates itself by growing a female with the old DNA, who will become the Queen of the Hourglass, destined to mate with the Clock King. Liraei is the current Queen of the Hourglass, and this novella follows her life from 'birth' until... until page 123.
I say this book is different from what I've previously encountered of Nazarian's work because the prose doesn't seem to have quite as much of that lyrical quality to it. But the imagination is still there, and the novella has a stunning cumulative effect. There's a mind-twisting revelation about the future world that took me completely by surprise; but greater than this is the effect of Liraei's journey and what it represents. This is the story of a teenage girl finding her place in life, but transported to the end of the world - and with wider resonance, because Liraei is one of us in a world of others. There's great delight in Nazarian's depiction of Liraei dancing in her room to 'ancient' human music; but it's nothing compared to the sense of awakening and possibility we have by book's end. Another marvellous read from a highly recommended author.
Story Copyright © 2007 by David Hebblethwaite. All rights reserved.
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