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The Meq, by Steve Cash Book Review | SFReader.com
The Meq, by Steve Cash Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Del Rey Published: 2005 Review Posted: 9/10/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
The Meq, by Steve Cash
Book Review by Teresa Baker
Have you read this book?
First of a series; may not appeal to those too addicted to traditional fantasy to try something fresh.
Zianno Zezen turned twelve May 4, 1881, the day his parents died. They had important news for him. Papa would tell all once they arrived in Central City. They never got there. All he would have been told he will have to find out as best he can. The two things he did learn from his parents made little sense: always keep his baseball with him, and find 'Sailor.'
So begins a unique and extravagant debut novel and series by Steve Cash. The Meq are a race so ancient they have all but lost the memory of their origins. Their life cycle isn't even human; Z could well retain his appearance as a 12 year old for centuries. It is uncannily auspicious that the first person Zianno meets in the wake of his parent's untimely deaths is Solomon J. Birnbaum; he will become an indispensable friend and mentor as Z begins to discover who he is.
As though he were an entry point to a vast maze spanning time and place, Solomon's appearance in Z's life puts him at the right place at the right time and Z soon encounters Ray. Zianno learns he is a Meq and that non-Meq are called Giza. Ray shows Z why his baseball is so important. Soon more Meq come into his life, all of them far older than Z, including Sailor and the Fleur-du-Mal, a bitter and twisted Meq well known to all his kind, whom Z will come to loathe.
Z also meets Carolina and Georgia, Giza sisters about his own age. Soon the three of them are secure at the boarding house of Solomon's dear friend, Mrs. Bennings. What Z cannot know is that just by knowing him these wonderful people face mortal danger. The Fleur-du-Mal always leaves pain and destruction in his wake, as those at Mrs. Bennings boarding house learn.
The Meq are searching for the oldest of their kind who have disappeared over the centuries; Opari is shrouded in the mysteries of China and Turmoi-Meq will be even harder to find. Z will do all he can to help track them down -- until Carolina's world is devastated for a second time by the Fleur-du-Mal. Then Zianno's journey becomes far more immediate, desperate and personal.
The Meq is a whirlwind ride across continents and decades. As Zianno traverses the unknown vastness of Africa in pursuit of his bitter enemy, finding alliances in the most unexpected of people, his fellow Meq continue their search for Opari and Turmoi-Meq. As seems to happen with all things Meq, events work out the way they are supposed to and the two searches bring everyone together at a dire time for the world. Even the Meq may be changed forever by the deadly Spanish Lady.
Steve Cash artfully slips the mysterious Meq into the flow of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with St Louis, Missouri as home base. He does it as naturally and unconsciously as breathing. Through Z's eyes, the blend of fantasy and history resonates with so much vibrancy and detail as to become a secret, but utterly convincing reality the vast majority of Giza simply didn't realize was happening.
Steve Cash's characters are well realized right from the start. Along the way they develop into ever richer and more complete personas, anchoring the story with their consistency and familiarity as it makes its way across the world and through the decades.
The Meq is a well paced fantasy adventure that will come as a welcome revitalizer to those who have read one too many tales of kingdoms and magicians, princes or paupers destined to save the day. The almost contemporary setting feels as comfy as hot cocoa by the fire; this is the sort of story that you could suggest to that friend who doesn't 'get' your interest in fantasy. One of its greatest strengths is that it is told in the first person. Yes, this technique restricts the reader's knowledge of events taking place away from the narrator. In The Meq however, that isolation from the big picture masterfully depicts the totally foreign time scale the Meq live in. We travel with Z for more than a decade before he manages to accomplish his task in Africa and resurface in the real world. For the Meq a decade matters little but in 'Giza time' a lot can and, of course, has happened. Z finds an irrevocably altered world when he reunites with his friends in 1918.
There is magic aplenty in this tale; it manifests most obviously in the special gifts the Meq display. More importantly, Cash has masterfully woven it into the overriding but never overplayed theme that, as I said earlier, things work out the way they are supposed to where the Meq are concerned. From the timely appearance of Solomon to the horrors of the Spanish Lady, there is the suggestion that more than coincidence guides events around the Meq to flow 'properly' even if they seem to lead only to tragedy in the short term.
The Meq is one of the finest first novels I've had the good fortune to read in a while. It delights with its charming characters and intrigues with a story that is original and infused with just the right balance of reality and fantasy. Even though the pace falters a little while Z is in Africa you will be rewarded by Z's encounter with a genuine ancient culture every bit as steeped in mystery as the fictitious Meq. Steve Cash has begun something wondrous and captivating that will attract readers now and keep them coming back for the rest of the series.
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I didn't expect too much when I checked this book out of the library. And now it is now one of my top ten reads in my lifetime. Cash has a gift of sentence structure and flow of dialog that literally stunned me. His descriptions of events and fast flow of action combine to create a book you cannot put down. I felt joy, excitement, wonder, satisfaction, and shed tears a few times between it's covers. A ride like no other I have been on. I felt a unique sense of loss as I approached the end. I really didn't want it to be over. It begged to continue. So I went on line to see if there were more and behold! Two sequels. I immediately ordered them from the library and eagerly await their arrival. By all means, read The Meq.
Posted by Sam on 6/17/2007
Go Big Brother. Way to write a good novel :D
Posted by Justin on 11/28/2005
An excellent book that was very well written. An enchanting and captivating novel that will leave waiting for the rest of the series to be published.... Does anyone know when that will be?!