Strange Horizons, 15 November 2004

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"Time's Swell" by Victoria Somogyi and Kathleen Chamberlain

"I remember nothing from before this place."  This first sentence of "Time's Swell" by Victoria Somogyi and Kathleen Chamberlain sets the engaging and mysterical tone of the piece.  Yes, I made up that word, mysterical–somewhere between mysterious and lyrical.  None of the characters are mentioned by name, yet each page overflows with insights into their most intimate and personal desires.

The protagonist is "modified and enhanced for survival, for time travel, for perfection."  She finds herself trapped in the past with a temporal scientist.  The two must survive, physically and financially, in a harsh reality by selling their bodies to pay for their motel room and selling scientific secrets to questionable individuals for unspoken price tags.  But the two women are connected; they long for each other, though neither finds the resolve to voice the need or act upon it.  The sexual tension permeates the story, like a spilled milkshake seeping into the worn fibers of a placemat.  When their need finally erupts beyond disciplined control, the result is stunning.  All the while at the beach outside their room, the ocean pounds on, unbounded, full of relentless force.

The narrative is introspective and cryptic, yet it flows with remarkable clarity.  The authors used repetition to their advantage, driving the characters full circle.  The slow and calculated escalation of anxiety exuded emotion that lingered with me afterwards.  I will not forget this story or the characters within for some time.