Time is slippery as quantum uncertainty in this ambitious tale that follows a variety of characters as they perform spooky actions over millennia.
Elberg’s first novel opens in an Arctic wasteland as Osnat and her husband, Simon, who are banished refugees from the future, search for help. Instead, they are captured by a primitive tribe called the Tunniq. Simon is killed in a Tunniq naming ceremony while Osnat is adopted as a daughter to Aarluk. Torn between revenge and the need to survive, Osnat learns as much as she can from her new “mother,” biding her time, nursing her simmering vengeance: “It wasn’t love, it wasn’t hatred, nor was it somewhere between those feelings. But it was absolutely what she felt.” In another time, Saima, a refugee from the “Trail of Tears” banishment, teams up with Finer, a cop investigating the “murder” of a dog (which Saima killed); and in yet another time, a huge army, commanded by the ruthless Ja’ix, is taking over the known universe. Elberg guides his readers from total confusion to dawning comprehension and on to understanding. Like musical refrains, characters, names, events, and details recur from one epoch to another. Some characters actually are or morph into those in other times. Quantum states fluctuate, enabling wormholes, time travel, magic, and even an afterlife; all are real locations characters can enter or leave if they possess the know-how. This is a complex, sometimes confusing tale involving an intricate web of characters and events. The author pulls it all together, however, in admirable fashion through solid characterization; the sweeping mix of science, mythology, history; and precise, yet metaphor-filled writing (“Ja’ix’s armies passed over lands like a glacier, slow but inexorable. They traveled in a broad swath, uprooting, destroying whatever existed previously, planting obedience in the ruins. From this crop, they harvested more brutal fighters”).
Those willing to decipher it all will be greatly rewarded.