Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass

The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass
The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass by Vera Nazarian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: People who like to think about deep things
Trigger Warnings: Preordained roles in life, limited self-choice

Disclosure: I won this book in the LibraryThing Member’s giveaway in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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.

My Thoughts: I have a number of Vera Nazarian books accumulated, so I believe I’ll read them all at once, starting here, with the one I’ve had the longest!

A very odd book, full of strange ideas. I can’t quite decide if I liked it or not (thus the rating), but it was definitely worth reading simply for the fact that it made me think about lots of different things, like the concept of time and space, the continuity of the species, how and why things would change, etc. The story itself mostly takes place in a place called Pacific Basin, which is, I think, supposed to be down on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, which has been reduced to a thin layer of extremely polluted sludge. The water that people drink comes from a mysterious source, all food is vegetable-based and grown in hothouses to order, people are created in labs and live long lives. Liaei is an oddity, and from that comes some of the issues I had with the story.

Liaei is different from modern humans, we know that, but it seems that every opportunity is taken to pound that notion into the readers’ heads, constantly harping on her differences: difference in appearance, difference in attitudes, difference in everything. Over and over and over until I wanted to scream, “I get it already!!” There were weird inconsistencies, too. Like, humans have evolved to fit into their modern world better with high lung capacity for reduced oxygen in the atmosphere, etc. However, why have they lost their hair? It seems that hair would insulate the head and prevent moisture from evaporating. More importantly, if most of the world is now a desert, why would they lose their eyelashes? It seems that eyelashes would be very important to protect the eyes from blowing sand, as an example. It doesn’t make sense!

So, I’m torn about this book. I think this might be one I need to read a few times to really “get it” in the end. I know there were aspects I really liked, and others (noted above) that bothered me intensely. And I certainly would not want to live in a world devoid of animal life! I enjoy my cats way too much. So, I have rated this book as 3 stars for now, subject to change if future readings provide me further insights. I would recommend this to people who are interested in quantum physics, like to think about the nature of the continuity of time, and are interested in a potential idea about the far-distant future.

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