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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

Published two years after the critically well-received novel Aegypt (1987), Crowley's collection of short fiction, Novelty , explores the relationship between time and creation in four stories which have widely divergent settings. The first story, "The Nightingale Sings at Night," retells the creation and fall of mankind. In Crowley's version,...

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Published two years after the critically well-received novel Aegypt (1987), Crowley's collection of short fiction, Novelty, explores the relationship between time and creation in four stories which have widely divergent settings. The first story, "The Nightingale Sings at Night," retells the creation and fall of mankind. In Crowley's version, Eden is presided over by Dame Kind, a figure whose name can be directly traced to the medieval allegorical tradition from which the modern character Mother Nature is drawn. The fall of the first man and woman is precipitated by the Moon, whose changing phases lead Man and Woman to discover time, and thereby, death.

The second piece, "Great Work of Time," is the most ambitious story in the collection. Set during the last days of the British Empire, this short novel investigates the possibility of time travel and how it might be used to create an alternate, "better" future. Members of the Otherhood, a secret society of idealists, volunteer to go back into time and make subtle changes in the past to improve the present. Their efforts at creating a new future result not in a better, more peaceful world, but in potential disaster.

The third tale, "In Blue" presents a dystopia based on a complicated system called "act field theory," which attempts to predict actions and events from masses of information stored in a computer. Hare, the central character of the short story, is dissatisfied with a society based on act field theory, a world in which all events have been accounted for. Eventually, Hare embraces a new, less comfortable, role as historian, sketching the pre-revolutionary buildings of the old order.

"Novelty," the final story in the anthology, focuses upon an alcoholic, less-than-successful writer frozen by writer's block and unable to turn his creative impulses into fiction. Establishing his identity based on insightful past accomplishments, the writer feels himself trapped between the poles of Novelty and Security. Despite their varied settings, these works investigate the concepts and interaction of time, history, and creativity. In the interplay of these abstractions, each story recognizes the concomitant power and potential dangers. The fall of man, the obliteration of men and races, the alienation of the individual from society, and self-alienation — all are products, Crowley suggests, of these powerful forces.

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