Scorpion God - William Golding, Pincher Martin The Scorpion God is a collection of three novellas. The title story takes place in Egypt, I would guess shortly before or around the time of the First Dynasty (c. 3000 BC); "Clonk Clonk" takes place at some period before the Agricultural Revolution (pre-10,000 BC), maybe in Africa, maybe not; and the final story, "Envoy Extraordinary," takes place in a fictionalized Roman Empire.

The historian in me would like to know more definitely when things happen but Golding's purpose in writing these stories is not the historian's. All of them challenge the standing of authority and tradition in some way, asking you to question your response to these things in your own life. In "The Scorpion God," the heir to the Great House (pharaoh) rebels against his planned destiny when his father dies and his sister (and future wife) conspires to displace him. In "Clonk Clonk," a crippled hunter struggles to gain acceptance in his tribe. And in "Envoy Extraordinary," there's a whole host of "rebels": the old emperor, his younger son, an eccentric inventor and his mysterious daughter.

The great strength of these stories is also their great weakness - Golding is so spot on at evoking these utterly alien cultures that the tales come across as cold and unengaging. Not surprisingly, the last story, set in ancient Rome, our "grandmother," is the most accessible and easily read.

I originally gave this book 2 stars but having written this short review, I've reconsidered and am raising my estimation to 3, but a very lukewarm 3 stars. The stories in this collection are short enough that you won't find yourself investing inordinate amounts of time in them, and you may find yourself liking them more than I did.