Banner of Souls Paperback
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Martian warrior Dreams-of- War is sent to earth to guard a special child Lunae, who has the ability to shift through time. Yskaterina of Nightworld on the edge of the galaxy is sent to kill the child. The Kami scientists, who were able to separate mind from body, want human hosts so that they can explore the physical realm again. Lunae tries to stop them while Dreams-of War and Yskaterina fight to the death over the only person who can save humanity in the war that might be coming.
In BANNER OF SOULS earth is a bleak place with no hope for much of a future while Mars feels optimistic about is outlook. There are various subplots that add complexity to the tale and at times make it difficult to follow, but each one enhances the prime theme as they seamlessly merge into the story line. The characters are incredible as they are believable products of their environment coming from varying societies so that though the reader may not understand motivations, we can comprehend that consistency of each key player as decisions are made from a respective societal values' set. Futuristic sci fi fans will appreciate this powerful novel.
The baroque characters are amazingly well drawn (even the minor ones) as they bash about, none quite knowing exactly what's going on (with the possible exception of Yskatarina), among creatures real and not real, alive and dead, human and mechanical.
In a previous book the author has acknowledged the influence of Jack Vance, and that influence certainly appears in this tale, too, with its vivid portrayals of strange worlds, strange creatures, and dry dialog. But this isn't a tribute by any means. It's a fine piece of work in its own right.
There's a banner on the front cover in which readers are advised that Liz Williams is "an author to watch." Just so. More important, she is an author to read. And read again.
I did like the structure of the book, though. How it switches back and forth in short chapters from the hunter to the hunted. And it is nicely written. Liz Williams is definitely a writer to watch!
To allay the confusion, this novel is set in the same future world (where only women seem to exist), and the same settings on Mars, but is a few hundred or thousand years earlier than Winterstrike (one scene takes place in an abandoned parking garage-much of the action in a future Hong Kong). Many of the Mars locations and settings are the same - things in ruins in WS, are here whole and operating, or ready to get shot up. I am thinking even one of the characters in WS (the ghost of the library) might have been seen here in the earlier version.
In Banner, people more readily go to Earth, seemingly drowned or flooded by rising seas in the distant past. We also get a much clearer idea of who the "ghosts" are, and when they come from. Worse yet what their ultimate aim in the present, and on Mars,is.
This book is not so far back in the past that we get any explanation for how things got to this state, why the women exterminated the men, how Mars got terraformed, how the earth got degraded or anything along standard SF plot lines. Still, it is a well designed world, here, and in the more widely recognized WS which followed. Little time is wasted on explanation, and since there is lots of action, little need for it. The characters take things as they are, and zip right along as do we.
Much like Winterstrike, this is a signal achievement, and really does raise the level of frustration that there is not a follow-up book. Still for fans of the much better known Winterstrike, this is a great opportunity to see more of this imaginative and thought-provoking world. Read it and hope there is a third still to come.