There’s a sci-fi story whose title and author escape me. Two beings, not human but not inhuman, clearly a couple, not young, are living contentedly in a splendid but not ostentatious (I’m just trying to capture the flavor I remember) dwelling and can see over a broad valley. A ravaging army appears one day across the valley moving towards them. They have a vase of crystal flowers and they pluck one. The army stops. Time is frozen. Contentment abides. The bloom wilts, the army stirs and a new flower is plucked. Repeat. Finally the blooms are gone and we switch perspective to the invaders who find a pair of dried out husks.

Anyone know the name of story and/or author? Any help will be appreciated, thanks.

  • When did you read it? How old was it at the time? In what language was it written? In what country did you obtain a copy? Oct 24, 2016 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


Could this be "The Garden of Time" by J. G. Ballard?

Towards evening, when the great shadow of the Palladian villa filled the terrace, Count Axel left his library and walked down the wide rococo steps among the time flowers. A tall, imperious figure in a black velvet jacket, a gold tie-pin glinting below his George V beard, cane held stiffly in a white-gloved hand, he surveyed the exquisite crystal flowers without emotion, listening to the sounds of his wife‟s harpsichord, as she played a Mozart rondo in the music room, echo and vibrate through the translucent petals


Three evenings later, as he had estimated (though sooner than he secretly hoped), Count Axel plucked another flower from the time garden. When he first looked over the wall the approaching rabble filled the distant half of the plain, stretching across the horizon in an unbroken mass. He thought he could hear the low, fragmentary sounds of voices carried across the empty air, a sullen murmur punctuated by cries and shouts, but quickly told himself that he had imagined them. Luckily, his wife was at her harpsichord

and at the end

The larger of the figures was the effigy of a bearded man in a high-collared jacket, a cane under one arm. Beside him was a woman in an elaborate full-skirted dress, her slim serene face unmarked by the wind and rain. In her left hand she lightly clasped a single rose, the delicately formed petals so thin as to be almost transparent. As the sun died away behind the house a single ray of light glanced through a shattered cornice and struck the rose, reflected off the whorl of petals on to the statues, lighting up the grey stone so that for a fleeting moment it was indistinguishable from the long-vanished flesh of the statues‟ originals.

  • 1
    The similarities are so great that this must surely be Ballard's story. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1962 and is very highly regarded. It's inconceivable that any editor would publish another story so similar.
    – PeterClose
    Oct 24, 2016 at 17:34

The novel "The Crystal World". It has been a while since I read it, but I believe the short story mentioned in the previous answer also forms the beginning of that novel.

  • 3
    Could you perhaps expand on this answer to show how it matches?
    – Adamant
    Oct 24, 2016 at 8:59
  • The Crystal World (published in 1966) doesn't incorporate or refer to The Garden of Time, but it does include much of The Illuminated Man, a short story published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in May 1964.
    – PeterClose
    Oct 24, 2016 at 17:43
  • 1
    Excellent, thank you! Yes that is the story. Memory, being more than a little fuzzy these days, had smudged some of the details. It was in English, in the U.S. Read back in the 70s or 80s, probably, but that wouldn't pin down when it was published. Now with the title in hand, Wikipedia says that the novel was published in 1966. Sounds just right. Thanks again. Oct 24, 2016 at 19:28
  • 1
    Mod note: the previous comment is from another account of the OP's and thus constitutes acceptance of the correct story. It refers to a "novel" published in 1966, which matches "The Crystal World" given in this answer.
    – Null
    Jun 22, 2018 at 3:12

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