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  • TITLE: The Ghost Sister
  • AUTHOR: Liz Williams
  • PUBLICATION YEAR: 2001
  • AWARDS: Shortlisted PKD Award
  • WEBSITE: www.locusmag.com/2004/Issues/
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    The setup in The Ghost Sister is that Humankind's history over the last millennia or so has followed the screamin'-mimi nightmare of every present-day Greenie in that the Earth has been left behind as a hopelessly-polluted sludgeball for the terraformed and completely controlled environs of colony world Irie St Syre. But, as a reaction to this global makeover where dirt is evidently considered dirty, a visionary back in the day named Elshonu Shikiriye colonized another world based on the principle that man should adapt to the environment, not the other way around. Not soon after, the Homies got a call saying this new colony was “cursed [and] that a darkness had fallen upon it” (Bantam, ISBN 0553583743, 2nd PB edition, c.2001, p.20). Why it took hundreds of years to respond with a team of Gaian sisters heaven-bent on returning these lost sheep back into the reactionary-religious, matriarchal feverfold, only Ms. Liz knows.

    What the feminist mission-members find on Monde D'Isle is a medieval community without any obviously-feudal steerage. Traumatically, it is schizophrenically balanced between a humanistic moral code regarding life and culture, and the animal survival instincts of prey and procreation. At times called “masques” (p.212), everyone suddenly has an overwhelming desire to drink hard, laugh heartily, and ball like bunnies. Strangely, it's not so much a propagation thing, as most of the main characters are gay or at least bisexual. Othertimes, the “bloodmind” (p.78) takes over, and people charge into the forests in a feral-fanged rage to murder animals—including the children and any other permanently-wild humans who get in their way—chiefly for sustenance, but in definite, carnivorous glee. They also go on migrations according to mooncycle and even hibernate one month in winter. But, strangest of all to civilized and logical minds, is that the children as early as one year of age wander off into the wilds to raise themselves as animals, then return to the townships around age eight or nine to become tame and human. Too bad they don't go back out through the teenage years, huh? Or do they?

    To finish off these curious affectations, in all other times—which takes up the vast majority of the novel—these people are normal, interactive, social and caring beings. Yeah, they got problems—mainly of self-identity stained in pre-conceived notions—and it drives an effective storyline toward discovery.

    And so it goes on the world of Monde D'Isle .

    If you haven't been roughed up by a lifetime of reading science fiction and fantasy, this novel is probably a pretty satisfying and provoking adventure. The basic setup is a kick. Unfortunately, with this being her first novel, Ms. Williams falls into too many obvious potholes to sustain my disbelief for long. The characters work well sketching the plot, but they feel underdrawn. The Gaian missionary team, for example, is presented without any embellishment or understanding of their core belief systems. Technically, the book is a miasma of writing styles that seem more exploratory and whimsical than adroit or enlightening. One of the indigenous characters is presented in 1st person with another in 3rd person limited omniscient, while the leading character from the mission team is handled most of the time in 3rd person limited, yet has journal entries in 1st person. The point-of-view switching is not so much confusing as it seems unnecessary. It appears as if there's left-over smudging from Creative Writing 101.

    Overall, The Ghost Sister is a refresh from the current High Tower, Sword ‘N Sorcery rigor mortis. The author writes with enough ingenuity and sparkle to drive me to her third novel, The Poison Master, mainly for her proclivity to stomp on the traditional genre fences between Sci Fi and Fantasy with such modern notions as sexual preference and environmental concerns. I feel confident that success and practice will have honed even sharper cutting tools.

     

    © copyright 01/13/2007 by Larry Crawford

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