Written in early 2005 The Meq is Steve Cash's, founding member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, debut novel. The Meq is the first novel in a two volume series of which the second is called Time Dancers.
“…invariably in everyone’s life there is a moment, a window in time, where only a stranger will make sense of a senseless thing and pull you out or through or wherever you need to go and do not have the power to do so alone…For me, that window was May 4, 1881. It was my twelfth birthday for the first time.”
The beginning statements of Steve Cash’s The Meq sets the stage for one of the most unusual stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The story begins with a violent train wreck that leaves the 12 year old protagonist, Zianno Zezen (hereafter referred to as Z) orphaned. Z finds an ally in Solomon, who takes him to St. Louis, where young Z tries to restart his life. A series of unusual events prohibit Z from leading the life of an ordinary 12 year old, and he quickly realizes that he can’t live an ordinary life as he is not human. Descended from a dying race called the Meq, Z learns that the Meq all grow to the age of 12 and stop aging until they are united with their life partner at which time they become mortal and begin to once again age.
Many of the Meq are millennia old, yet they are spread out over the continents, and it takes Z many years to find others of his kind. One of the more elusive Meq figures is the Fleur-du-Mal. A sadistic creature, he torments other Meq in his quest to find the mythical stones that all of the Meq believe is tied to their origin. The Fleur-du-Mal is a vicious assassin, and though the Meq are not immortal, they are incredibly difficult to kill; thus the quest to be rid of the Fleur-du-Mal is a difficult one.
Steve Cash’s creation of the Meq is incredibly skillful. He never allows the Meq to fall into the position of the objectified “other.” While this is often the direction that sci-fi might take, in this novel Cash departs from the expected. Z is a sympathetic and likable character with the kind of compassion and heart that is desired in a hero. Most of the other Meq are just as complex and well developed. Ray and the Fleur-du-Mal exhibit disturbing cynicism and mystery that is reminiscent of vampires, but he stops short of departing into clichés which is very much appreciated. Cash sometimes has a problem with developing authentic reactions (towards the Meq) from the human characters. Often times, the humans who begin to realize what the Meq are take the entire thing in stride. There is very little hysterics or anger or fear—the expected reactions. While that was disappointing at time, the likability of the characters made up for some of the lacking authenticity.
Overall, I found this book to be a quick and engaging read. The plot is well paced and interesting. Z’s encounters with interesting and historic figures as well as his travels provide the reader with an incredibly rich tale. Most of the novel is set in turn of the twentieth century St. Louis, so there are great references to historic landmarks and events. If you enjoy period fiction, this novel offers a nice taste of that.
There is a sequel called Time Dancers (and plans for a third book that is not yet published). If you are not interested in getting involved in a series that is not fully complete, then I would steer clear of this series as there has been no announcements as to the publication date of the third novel. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this for anyone’s summer reading list especially if you’re into science fiction.