Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cybele, With Bluebonnets by Charles L. Harness

Charles L. Harness wrote a great many novels, novellas and stories during his long career. He is best known as the author of The Rose, a short but intriguing science fantasy novel. I have always enjoyed everything he wrote, but his last book, Cybele, With Bluebonnets, is my favorite of his stories. This was his last novel, published in July 2002. Cybele, With Bluebonnets can be categorized in many ways, and all of them are correct. It is science fiction, a love story, a ghost story, a memoir of a lost boyhood, and a rumination on the human condition. It shares certain themes with Harness’ earlier novel, The Paradox Men, and the book’s introduction by George Zebrowski illuminates some of these connections. Cybele, With Bluebonnets is not a traditional science fiction novel at all, although Harness wrote many such stories in the past. It is also not the type of book that gets the attention of committees from various organizations that hand out awards. Cybele, With Bluebonnets was published with little fanfare by NESFA Press out of Framingham, MA. The story begins in West Texas during the Great Depression. It tells the tale of young Joe Barnes who falls in love with his High School chemistry teacher, Cybele Wilson. There is tragedy here, dashes of chemical instruction, and hope and certainly a great deal of love. How this all ties together, and the strange but poignant conclusion will leave you grateful for the journey. It occasionally happens that a rare book comes along such as this one that rises above the genre for which it was intended and becomes that which is simply Literature, and any other labels are an injustice. Cybele, With Bluebonnets is a literary tale, told by a pro, and offered as one last tale by a great writer from the golden age.

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