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Tim Powers
A Time to Cast Away Stones
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2010

Charnel House
USA Limited Hardcover, First Edition
ISBN 978-0-927-38945-7
Publication Date: 07-01-2010
100 pages, $250
Date Reviewed: 12-12-2010

Index:  Fantasy  General Fiction  Horror  Science Fiction

It's easy to think that creating an authentic sense of awe would require a lot of text, but the Romantic poets demonstrate that's not the case. Byron and Shelley could suggest in a couplet a sense of the supernatural that might require a few hundred pages of exposition in a modern horror novel. Not surprisingly, both Byron and Shelley (and their fictional creations) have been pulled into numerous novels with supernatural themes. One of the first writers to do so was Tim Powers, in what remains one of the best in its class, 'The Stress of Her Regard.' If you're lucky, you managed to buy or find a copy of the limited edition by Charnel House, bound in blue denim, illustrated by Powers, and printed on the finest of the finest papers. Copies of that edition can still be found, but they will be used and start at $200ish. The prices rise into the clear blue sky to join Powers' visions of Men, Great Men, and That Beyond Man.

Perhaps it's unfair to review a book when I can only find one copy for sale through my most reliable search engine. (And no, I'm not talking about the one that wants you to buy a cell phone.) But I'm going to go right ahead, knowing that there is at least one copy of 'A Time to Cast Away Stones' (Charnel House ; 2010 ; $250) by Tim Powers available. Perhaps in some peculiar manner, more will arrive. It's the sort of thing that would make perfect sense in Powers' world. And once you enter his world of words, rest assured, it will bleed through into your everyday life. You will know that there are giants in the earth.

'A Time to Cast Away Stones' concerns one Edward Trelawny, who is making his way to a mountaintop aerie where he will join in the battle to drive the Turkish forces from Greece. Accompanying him are his unhappy wife, Tersitza and a brace of disincarnate beings that masquerade as the humans he has created in the plentiful lies he has told about his life. For the most part, only he can see the latter. Mostly.

Powers is in top form in 'A Time to Cast Away Stones.' Following from 'The Stress of Her Regard,' Powers continues his story of the Romantic poets after their deaths. They may have left this world, but they're not ready to leave this world alone. Trelawney finds himself in possession of something with the potential for great power. With that power comes not just responsibility, but mortal danger.

Readers who enjoyed Powers wonderful supernatural evocation of ancient intelligences in 'The Stress of Her Regard' will surely want to read 'A Time to Cast Away Stones.' It's packed with evocations of supernatural awe, great characters, and the sort of plot twists at which Powers excels. Powers works well in the novella format. 'A Time to Cast Away Stones' moves fast, but offers lots of action in a short space. It's a great piece of writing by one of our best writers.

Charnel House offers its usual fine production of a limited edition. Joe Stefko, the publisher of Charnel House knows how to design a book that looks like something from the period in which it is set. Creepy reproductions from Shelley's manuscript book serve as endpapers. The book is printed on "handmade Cave paper." You feel like you are getting your money's worth.

At $250 for a signed limited edition, 'A Time to Cast Away Stones' is not cheap. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you'd be well advised to hunt down the Charnel House edition of 'The Stress of Her Regard.' 'A Time to Cast Away Stones' is clearly intended for collectors on the compulsive side, and most of them probably have one already. If not, you'd better start searching now. 'A Time to Cast Away Stones' acts as a bridge between 'The Stress of Her Regard' and Powers' forthcoming novel, which according to Powers himself, "may be called either Hide Me Among the Graves or Blood Between Us." If you seriously thought about buying this and haven't, move fast. If you've already bought this and haven't yet read it, then you have something to look forward to. Clear some time, and invest in the best food and drink to have with it. Check in to a seaside hotel and read this while you gaze out over the ocean. Beneath you, in the earth, the giants are waiting.

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