This is one stunning cover. And the story is worth your time, but don’t expect fields of pretty flowers.
Quantum Cannibals (Stories from the Milky Way Book 1) by Nathan Elberg released a couple of years back in the Time travel, dark sci fi, genre.
In the Stone Age Arctic, Osnat, a brilliant, pregnant, quantum scientist knows where she is but she doesn’t know when. A mysterious technology has exiled her and her people across time to a frigid wasteland above the northern radiation belts. She and her husband Simon search for food, warmth, for any kind of help. They find instead a band of indigenous Tunniq who attack, rather than assist. Though she craves vengeance, Osnat realizes that the murderous savages are the help her people need to survive. The conflict between need and ideals tears at her as she learns their ways. Must Osnat become a brutal savage in order to save her people?
Quantum Cannibals weaves a series of intersecting stories that span time, from Bronze Age Mesopotamia to a Post-Modern city-state. It’s the epic story of three incarnations of two people: alternately son and mother, husband and wife, father and daughter, savage and scholar, who simply want to return to the home they were brutally evicted from. Quantum Cannibals brings together authentic cultures and history from the far reaches of the world, from the far reaches of time.
There was no way to appease the Bear. All it was interested in was her life. She crouched down, prepared to spring to battle. And she prayed that she be spared. In the merit of any good that she’d ever done in her life, in the merit of her ancestors, please send salvation.
The animal’s growls were now a low rumble. She could sense it circling her little shelter, sniffing at its prey. She turned to follow, backing off the little she could from wherever it was, her small, fractured spear clutched in her mitts.
Half the shelter collapsed under massive white and red forelegs that smashed through the top, a roar of rage coming from the animal’s throat. Bright, fresh blood soaked the snow as Osnat’s broken harpoon headed towards the beast’s right eye. It barely acknowledged the attack.
It didn’t make sense. There were copious amounts of blood all over the bear before her spear even touched it. It must be hers, but then she should be in pain, she should feel weak.
Aarluk scowled at Osnat through the smashed remains of her snow hut. “I’m glad to see you were ready to protect my fish. I wouldn’t want some stupid bear to steal them, after all the effort I put into catching them. Come on, let’s go.”
Osnat stared at the huge rent in the bear’s throat, and then threw her arms around Aarluk. All the terror, all the anger poured out of her heart, poured in liquid form from her eyes. After a few minutes she was finally able to speak. “Thank you for coming back for me.”
Aarluk gently disengaged her arms. “Never mind that; I didn’t leave. I just stayed back so you could learn to find your way. We’ll cut up the bear, and then go. I’ll follow you, so I can keep an eye on what’s left of my fish in your back-pack.”
Osnat blanched. Not again. “I don’t know where to go; I can’t find the way under normal conditions. I certainly can’t find it in a storm like this.”
“Bah! Without ever having been taught, you built yourself a snow hut. You lit a lamp without having a flame. You were facing certain death from the bear, yet you prepared to fight. You knew how to move back, so that when it came through the walls it wouldn’t strike you. You’re one of us now, maybe stronger. You’re Tunniq. Stop whining; stop thinking. Shut your eyes if it helps. Let’s go.”
Osnat looked at the person who had raped her when they first met. Now the overwhelming feeling she had for Aarluk was – well, she didn’t know what it was. There was no word, no concept that encompassed gratitude, deep affection, revulsion and terror. It wasn’t love, it wasn’t hatred, nor was it somewhere between those feelings. But it was absolutely what she felt.
About Nathan Elberg:
Nathan Elberg is a retired Realtor, anthropologist and recovered ex-radical. He lived & hunted with Indians and Inuit. He’s been tear-gassed, rebuilt his car’s transmission, had a bayonet in his face, and hitch-hiked across the continent.
Nathan has studied folklore, warfare, Kabbalah, primitive art and communications among other things. His essays and stories have been published in a variety of venues. Elberg studied with the late Dr. Michael Harner, a practicing shaman and recognized expert on cannibalism. Nathan’s father Yehuda Elberg was a world-renowned Yiddish author and lecturer. His mother was a poet and translator.
A descendent of the biblical King David, Nathan recently put aside his plan to rule the galaxy so he could devote more time to writing. He’s a member of the Canadian Fantasy and Science Fiction Association and is active with the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, a think tank.
Elberg’s been married for many decades and has been blessed with children and grandchildren.
Top 5 favorite scenes and why.
The primary characters in Quantum Cannibals face tectonic changes in their ways of life. My favorite scenes are where they understand and accept the paradigm shift needed for them to survive.
Aarluk was Osnat’s rapist. A trans-gender shaman, Aarluk eventually became her mother. Osnat refused to accept that, considering the rape and other brutal acts. But Aarluk also taught Osnat how to live in her new home, a harsh arctic wasteland. Aarluk protected and nurtured her ‘daughter.’ It was months after the rape, after the murder of her husband, that Osnat grappled to understand her feelings. There was no word, no concept that encompassed gratitude, deep affection, revulsion, and terror. Told to trust her instincts, told to stop whining, Osnat says “Yes, mother.”
He’s tied up right now:
Asenath’s marriage contract forbade her from doing housework. She was too great a scholar to spend her time on such mundane activities. But her husband was dead and the laundry had to be hung to dry in the sun.
The Ebers looked to her as their leader because of her vast wisdom. Other people of Lagash treated her deferentially because she was the head of the Ebers, or Clay People as some called them. The man surreptitiously trying to climb onto her roof had to be from out of town, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried. He would have especially not declared his intention to molest her. He would have known that she wouldn’t have to lift a finger to tie his nefarious plan in knots.
In the hands of the rumor-mongers, the molester became the victim and Asenath an evil manipulator of supernatural forces.
It’s dangerous to be pushed off a bridge, especially if it’s very high, very cold, and the river below is frozen. It’s not comforting that you were pushed off by a shaman who says he traveled five thousand years and half a world away to get your help. Lieutenant Detective Tammy Finer expected some weirdness in her job, but this went beyond her understanding of the laws of nature.
The Chief Blows up the enemy:
Huitzilopochtli was the deity of war, the sun, and human sacrifice, often presented as a hummingbird. Taiku was the Chief of Lagash, leading its people in the war against a powerful, ruthless invader.
Taiku was losing. His forces were surrounded and he had been captured, tied to a tree, and most of his skin peeled from his flesh. Huitzilopochtli flew to him, hovering at his ear whispering secrets. The hummingbird told him how to deal with his enemy, how Lagash could prevail.
A time-traveling police detective dropped by unexpectedly and revived the laws of nature.
A Modern Divorce
In ancient times most societies put the power of divorce solely into the hands of the husbands. Over the years many of these societies gave women more rights to control their own destinies. There were those who didn’t keep up with the changes, who weren’t aware of contemporary divorce practices. When you’ve been married for five thousand years you don’t pay so much attention. When your wife demands a divorce, you’re caught off guard. The consequences can be terminal.
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