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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Meq by Steve Cash

The Meq by Steve Cash. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. ISBN: 0-345-47092-3

For a first novel, this is a darn good effort. I could certainly never do as well, so it seems a bit rude to criticize. Nevertheless . . . The story line is classic scifi, even though the cover describes the book as fantasy. We have a group of “others,” the Meq, living amongst humanity. These folks live forever, looking like 12-year old children, until they of their own volition, make the decision with another of their kind to “cross over,” mature, have children of their own, and age and die like normal folks. They have been here on this planet for millenia, since before the last ice age at least, but there is a hint that they originally came from elsewhere.

Our protagonist is a Meq whose parents were killed in a train accident before they could tell him anything about himself, which leaves him to figure it out on his own. Over the centuries, much of the original Meq knowledge about themselves, who they are, and what they are supposed to be doing, has been lost in a similar fashion, never passed down. But there are still some of them alive from very ancient times, and perhaps they know more than they are telling. Most of the story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so what we also have is very much like historical fiction. As I have written before, science fiction can encompass practically any other genre.

So what is my complaint? The book remains too unfocused, too unplotted. We never learn who the Meq really are. And our protagonist just wanders around through much of the book, trying to find and thwart one Meq who has turned evil, an assassin and kidnapper. But he makes no systematic attempt to master his own superhuman abilities, such as they are, and seems to be stumbling about blindly, with his evil nemesis far more in control than he is. Even at the end of the book, when he and his friends succeed in rescuing the kidnapped daughter of one of their best and most loyal friends among normal humanity, it is only years later, after she has grown, and born a child of her own. And the evil one is still on the loose, with no guarantee he won't come and wreak similar havoc whenever he pleases.

There are also hints of some big transformation, some ritual or event involving all of the Meq together, in the near future, but these hints are not brought to fruition within the story. Perhaps a sequel is planned, perhaps not, but everything is so nebulous, so fluid, that we're not really sure we care enough to read a sequel. Only half-heartedly recommended for dedicated science fiction fans.

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