Banner of Souls, by Liz Williams

nwhyte's review

Go to review page[return][return]Basically very good. Teetered on the edge of being too complex for late-night reading (I seem to have spent most of the last week feeling very sleepy) but I managed. Far future setting, almost all characters are women (hardly any men left alive), vibrant Mars vs failing Earth, nanotechnology, advanced military tech and also raising the dead. Will buy more by her.

jovvijo's review against another edition

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This was such a HARD LEFT veer from what you generally expect in these sort of 'soft sci-fi' dystopian type books.
The world building was, literally, out of this world and every character had so many layers to them that it would make an onion feel curiously inadequate!

It's strange, trippy, magical, brutal, and all and all just riveting!

Recommended for anyone who's ever said, "I really wish I could just read something different!"

brownbetty's review against another edition

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You very rarely encounter, even in science fiction, technology sufficiently advanced as to seem magic. Most of us use tools daily without understanding how they work, so a rocket-ship or laser-pistol isn't really very different, if you know what it does. [Book:Banner of Souls] is a bit like what might have happened if the person who interrupted Samuel Taylor Coleridge mid-way through Xanadu had given him two tabs of acid and sent him straight back to his desk.

The science in this book manages to seem horrifying, alien, grotesque, and magical, and I think I spent the first third of the book simply boggling and trying to build some kind of construct that would enable me to find some footing in the narrative. The book has decent characters, but I think its strongest feature is its world-building.

Williams never stops to explain. In the first chapter, you follow a woman named Dreams-Of-War as she has her ability to empathize re-activated to make her a more zealous bodyguard. Then she gets into something like a space-shuttle with a kappa, who has an actual depression on top of her head, and leaves Mars for earth. The kappa is a lab-tech, and Dreams-Of-War wears armour made out of a ghost. Listen, this is me trying to make it clearer.

I enjoyed this book, but it was a lot like watching The Cell with a high fever. I don't know if it was actually good or just stunningly vivid and highly confusing.

will_sargent's review against another edition

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I had a hard time reading this book. It's one of the few science fiction books where I couldn't hold my suspension of disbelief.

Forget the haunt-tech bringing the spirits of the underworld back to life to serve in machinery. I'll buy that, I'll buy a time travelling 9 year old, I'll buy that all the males are dead and that people on Mars believe that they colonized Earth rather than vice versa.

But. This is a civilization which can jump from Pluto to Earth, and they don't have ubiquitous e-mail. Or cellphones. Or anything resembling a police force that would like to notice these interesting characters running around with guns. Not are there barely any characters surrounding the protagonists, there's barely a sense that the world reacts to their presence. It's a backdrop.

And looking at it more closely: what in this story had any science behind it, or any kind of scientific thinking? You could transplant this story very effectively into a Lord of the Rings type setting and be none the wiser -- the ghosts would still be ghosts, the one dimensional warriors would still be one dimensional warriors, and the kind nursemaids, the plucky young girl with mystical powers and the evil monsters would all be exactly intact. And it would be more believable.

Anyway. The plot is forgettable, the characters hackneyed, and the world ridiculous. Apart from that, it's great.