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The Pendant Lens (Short Review)

The Pendant Lens is a speculative tale featuring strong characters placed in precarious positions within the tempestuous climate of revolution-era France. The featured technology is mysterious and fascinating, hinting at a group of people who might know more about the future than they’re letting on.


Sean McMullen
Analog Science Fact & Fiction, September/October 2018 Issue


I love this combination of historical and speculative fiction. The Pendant Lens adds a bit of mysticism to the happenings of Robespierre’s government, showing him the future through this odd contraption. Alongside the intrigue of such a violent time, there’s a solid discussion on electricity and its properties. We get to watch the main character experiment and learn from this new force the world doesn’t yet understand. I appreciated the heavy usage of facts in the story — it made the narrative realistic and exciting.


The main character finds himself accidentally thrust into the instability of Robespierre’s world, with his life on the line if he makes a mistake. He’s confident in his abilities even though his education lies elsewhere. It’s clear he’s eager to learn and experiment with this strange object.  It is, however, very telling that he has discovered the means for peering into the distant future but doesn’t recreate it. We don’t know how he really feels about being able to look at the future. He seems to just go with the flow, remaining at the beck and call of whoever happens to be in charge of their project.


McMullen does a great job of capturing the tense horror of Robespierre’s France. People scurry about, constantly afraid they’ll be executed for looking at someone the wrong way. There are soldiers everywhere, and no place is truly safe. Technology is just starting to jump onto the scene, and the story hints at the exciting times ahead for inventors and scientists.


Historical Fiction, Futurism, Electricity, Future, Technology, Inventions

Interested in more stories like The Pendant Lens? Read our short reviews here.

Photo by Cédric Klei on Unsplash

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