Published by Del Rey
Hardcover 392 Pages
In Time Dancers, Steve Cash continues his saga of immortals begun in The Meq. Cash follows the immortal Zianno Zezen, or Z, on his journeys across the globe, and particularly across America during the first half of the Twentieth Century. While I didn’t read the previous volume, Cash has a nice two-page wrap up of The Meq bringing new readers up to speed. We learn these immortals, the Meq, although long-lived have the appearance of a twelve-year-old child. They retain this “age of twelve” immortality until they find their soul mate, when the two make a conscious decision to age as normal humans.
Cash did a few things I liked, and approached this fantasy story in a way I didn’t expect. In part, the story works very much like a memoir, as if we are reading Z’s journal. In that respect, I thought Cash provided an effective first person narrative. Very often, Z’s sincerity was the most striking element of the story.
Another aspect of the story I liked, and wasn’t expecting, was just how much Americana was infused into the story. I especially enjoyed how essential the sport of baseball was to the overall story. It isn’t very often that baseball, and baseball players play such integral roles in either the characters or the backdrop of the story, but here, Cash tapped into this otherwise rarely used element very well.
Overall, I thought Cash’s pure writing ability was excellent. The story flowed very well through Cash’s elegant and rich prose. Many of the scenes taking place in St. Louis felt very authentic and gave me a good feel for the setting. As a big baseball fan, I’ve always heard what a great baseball town St. Louis was during the early years of the 20 th Century with the great Rogers Hornsby, and how it still is today. Although Cash’s story hasn’t yet reached the present, his prose does evoke that great baseball town feel. The baseball aspect provided a nice microscope under which the Meq, and the characters, could both view America, while also providing a historical backdrop.
Despite the prose and the interesting Americana aspect of the novel, the novel was still frustrating. With the facets of the novel I enjoyed, I was equally let down by a story that very often dragged and moved slowly. Essentially, I felt there wasn’t much of a plot. There’s a vague sense that Z and his companions are at odds with another immortal, the Meq assassin Fleur-du-Mal. There is also a quest, of sorts, for Z and his companions to learn more about their clouded origins, almost like a secret history. While the Meq are long-lived, their origins and earliest histories are very vague. At times the two major plotlines, the Fleu-du-Mal and the Meq’s origins, do clash with each other, but on the whole, the plotting was very much secondary, and often took a back seat to Z’s daily observations. This left me, at times, questioning what the point of the story was. Even though I found Z to be a sincere character, at times, I was bored with Z, his friends, and their story. It wasn’t necessarily a bad novel, I just didn’t connect with the characters as much as I would have liked. I don’t know that my reading experience would have been different had I read The Meq, but as it was, I felt Time Dancers was a rather uneven and often frustrating novel.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford