The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass Vera Nazarian

The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass

First Published 2005
124 Pages

ISBN: 1-904619-22-3
Reviewer
Steve
November 2005

Far in the future, the Earth is dying and the human race is vastly changed, resembling Roswell greys more than the current race. Liaei has been created in a lab to become the mate of the Clock King, a man trapped inside a stasis device, periodically released from his confinement for a brief period, before he must return to stasis to prevent the passage of time catching up with him and reducing him to dust.

But the book takes its time to get to the meeting of the two humans, with fully the first half of the story concentrating on the childhood and her development into adulthood of Liaei and her associations with the members of the future human race, and her growing understanding of her world.

I have been looking forward to this novella since I first heard of it. The synopsis I read appealed to me particularly. So in some ways I was dreading that it might not live up to my hopes, thankfully though it did.

And in one way it lives up to this because of the deliberate build up, for although this is a short book, the author does not feel rushed by this length. Everything here takes place at a steady even pace. And in having this pace it allows you to feel with the lead character, to see the world she lives in as she discovers more of it as she grows.

Our connection with Liaei is made all the easier by her being a genetically re-engineered human one of us so to speak - in a world where the human race has evolved into a virtually different species, a hairless androgynous long lived race. This means Liaei has to cope not only with the usually problems of adolescence but she has to do it in an essentially alien environment, how much worse must the feelings of being completely alone and different from everyone around when you are the only human.

There is a beauty in the prose here, a lyrical quality. The writing is quite sublime. A good deal of the time I like a writing style which allows the story to be told - one that doesn't get in the way, and feel that flowery text (my description for what is often called literary or lyrical) just obscures the plot unnecessarily.

Here however the story is quite different. The prose is exquisite but it is not flowery, not a case of "why use one word when you can use thirty". But it is also a truly pleasant little tale - not a half idea shrouded in nice words where the author might hope the good turn of phrase might mask the lack of substance, this is a fine little tale set in a believable well portrayed far distant future.

Every aspect of this novel has a point, every inclusion necessary to the advancement of the tale. The details of the society of the future, inhabited by these long-lived future humans, with the secrets of the technology guiding their lives lost to them, and the machines slowly breaking down; the teachings of the requirements of Liaei's sexual destiny by an essentially asexual nursemaid and a computer; and the ravaged Earth all contributing to the texture of the tale.

Golly this is good!






9
 

Synopsis
Many billion years in the future, the sun is a huge bloated golden Day God that fills the sky, and the earth is a barren desert. The last remaining water has pooled at the bottom of the Pacific Basin in a thick toxic sludge-lake called the Oceanus by the sterile post-humans that inhabit its salt-encrusted shores.

Liaei is different from the others. She is a fertile female created out of ancient homo sapiens DNA from the dwindling genetic stores, and has been manufactured by the horticulturists in a genetics lab. Liaei has been brought to life for one mysterious purpose -- she is to become the Queen of the Hourglass.

Growing up in Basin City, fostered by the quasi-female modern human Amhama -- the same technician who put her cells together -- Liaei knows she does not belong. She is lively and vibrant and has a savage full head of hair and eyebrows unlike the smooth doll-like humans around her. She is also curious and inquisitive, asking more questions than even the harmonium in all its complexity can answer -- harmonium technology powers everything, can regurgitate histories of civilizations, process liquid toxic waste, conjure music out of the air, run the agricultural hothouses, and fly hovercars, and yet its origins too have been lost in the murk of the ages and it cannot satisfy the restless mind of Liaei.

What does it mean to be the Queen of the Hourglass? Why do love and emotions seem to mean other things to her than to others? And what is that meandering ribbon of light up on the distant Basin Walls, a mysterious bit of ancient technology called The River That Flows Through the Air? Can water flow uphill?

Soon, when she reaches ancient sexual maturity and undergoes the proper training, the Queen of the Hourglass will embark on a journey to meet her consort the Clock King, and there will be even more questions.

But now, the harmonium-based machines are failing, and suddenly humanity is running out of time.