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Time Dancers (The Meq) by Steve Cash
Review by Mel Jacob
Del Rey Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345470931
Date: 30 May, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Time Dancers opens with Z and his closest Giza friend Carolina Flowers traveling by train to St. Louis with the coffins of Carolina's husband and a Meq woman. In The Meq, Z aided in the rescue and recovery of Carolina's daughter Star, kidnapped as a child, and Star's son. They are also on the train.

Z carries one of the five known legendary Meq stones of power. The evil Fleur-du-Mal, a Meq and an eternal enemy of Z, seeks the sixth and potentially most powerful of such stones. He will stop at nothing to obtain it and to destroy the holders of the five stones, including Z and his beloved Opari.

Tragedy strikes and leaves a Meq couple and their child dead. The Meq conclude that Fleur performed the killings. Z and others depart St. Louis to catch him.

Cash writes in an episodic fashion with action events interspersed with long stretches of relative quiet. His writing teems with historic names and events, drawing in particular on baseball, music, and the arts, and provides bits of personal history for the major Meq characters. He has an annoying habit of raising these personal bits and then delaying the recounting.

Much of the action centers around the chase of Fleur-du-Mal or attacks on one or more of the Meq. The globe trotting groups cover a lot of territory: Malta, Egypt, England, France, Norway, Spain, Cuba, India, China, and Japan. The Meq survive the Great Depression and witness the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Along the way they acquire new allies, discover unknown abilities, and uncover information related to their quest. Dreams, visions, and voices provide important clues, many of which appear clear to the reader, but are not understood by the Meq until later. Injuries and casualties mount.

Coincidence plays much too big a part, and the author implies the Meq had some part in many historic events and helped shape history, but they blame the Giza or Fleur-du-Mal for the chaotic state of world. The book stops with a major catastrophe, but the story has no resolution. It almost seems as if the author or publisher decided to break at this point to make the work into a trilogy, perhaps to keep it to a convenient size.

Gene Wolfe, Robert Heinlein, and Larry Nivens, among a variety of authors, have also written about immortality and its consequences. Cash's focus and motivation remains cloudy, at least in the present volume. Those fascinated by the Meq will eagerly await the concluding volume. However, others may not.

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