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An Exaltation of Larks
Robert Reed
Tor Books, 353 pages

An Exaltation of Larks
Robert Reed
Robert Reed is the author of eight novels, among them Beyond the Veil of Stars and Beneath the Gated Sky. His short fiction has twice been nominated for the Hugo Award, and he was the Gold Award winner of the first Writers of the Future contest. He has had numerous short stories published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and other major magazines.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by S. Kay Elmore

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An Exaltation of Larks brought back an echo of a ceremony I witnessed years ago. It was cold. We stood and shivered in down parkas, waiting for the turtles. A slight murmur started through the crowd who had gathered in the pre-dawn chill. Another sound, like a faint heartbeat, wafted over us like steaming breath. One by one, the Kachina appeared from nowhere, rising up from the frozen ground in a long line. The heartbeat resolved itself into the beating of great drums. The dancers wove and circled in intricate patterns, their feet and voices a counterpoint to the drums. They were in perfect synchronicity, not one step out of place, or head unturned on cue, no voice faltered or beat dropped. Then, on some unknown cue, every dancer, drummer, and many of the people brought their feet, hands, and drumsticks down in one ultimate, singular stroke. At that exact moment, the sun cracked its first ray of light over the mountains. The Turtle Kachina had saved the day and the sun would rise again for another year.

At nine years old, I was completely caught up in the dance, and still remember feeling like I could reach out and touch another world that morning. Because of my mother's long friendships and professional associations with both Navajo and Hopi tribes, I was fortunate enough to see many things that outsiders were not privy to. This was one of them. The Hopi, among many other world cultures, believe that we live on "Turtle Island" built on the back of a turtle. Likewise, Robert Reed has used this creator of worlds as the backbone of his latest novel, An Exaltation of Larks.

Jesse Aylesworth, editor of his campus newspaper and ladies man, is embroiled in a controversy threatening to drag the college down along with its disgraced president. He's also busy falling in love with a wonderful girl. Further complicating his life is a vicious blizzard that has effectively isolated the small town. The last thing he needs is some insane Indian following him around campus. But Turtle, the Indian, is a shape-shifter, and a harbinger of change so sweeping it will alter Jesse's understanding of life for a trillion years beyond his understanding.

Jesse is among the chosen few to be an integral part of the plan for the future of the universe. Turtle's plans for reshaping the past and future of the earth are meticulous and leave no room for error, so when Jesse discovers that there may be a criminal among the chosen, he is torn between loyalty and love.

Robert Reed has spun out a tale about the end of the world that may indeed be about the beginning of life. He uses the seeds of an ancient mythology and grows it into an enchanting story. He blends concepts of ethics and cosmic justice with striking eroticism and an ultimate statement about the power of love. The characters are rich and believable even when presented with mind-boggling situations. There are morbidly funny scenes mixed with absurdities (like a class for animals who are busy morphing human legs and arms). The only complaint I have about this novel is that a few explanations of the workings of time and the universe were very unclear. Perhaps they were meant to be.

Copyright © 1998 S. Kay Elmore

S. Kay Elmore is a graphic artist, writer and corporate wage slave. She edits The Orphic Chronicle, an online magazine, and tries to make ends meet by writing and developing corporate newsletters and web sites.


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