Dover Book

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    It's about Aliens. Just so you know from the start. From the title, I thought I would be about spiritual evolution. I thought I would really like it. Well, it wasn't and I didn't. I do not read that many books from this century, and this was written in 2004. If this is the trend in sci-fi, then I think writers, and people in general, need to do an about face and think in a different direction.
    Perhaps I would not have been so repulsed by this book, set in the very far future, if I did not grasp that what we are living here, now, is setting the stage for the many of the scenarios portrayed in the book, in the very near future. Does Liz Williams think she is writing fantasy? Is she aware that not all she writes is fiction? She must be. Dan Brown certainly is, as in his novel, Origin. When he first wrote it, he thought the whole transhumanism thing was cool and inevitable for the future of humanity. But he later wised up, and hopefully realized that we are spiritual beings with souls, NOT machines or computers. What about Liz Williams? Is it OK with her?
     Wikipedia has only a short page on Williams. She is British and was born in 1965. She holds a PhD in Philosophy of Science, and also writes about the Occult, Witchcraft, the Inspector Chen Series, and other sci-fi/fantasy type books. Several were nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award. He was a sci-fi writer also. I have two volumes of his short stories but have not read them yet. From the bibliography Wikipedia supplies, I would still be interested in trying some of her other novels. I think if I had read this one back in 2004, before things here on earth became as they are now, obviously being taken over by Controllers which may not—probably do not—have their base here on this planet, I would have liked it. I am not saying it is a bad novel, I'm saying I had issues with it. I am sick of wars and invasions and mind control, genetic engineering and especially those who are turning humanity into computers, mostly without them knowing it. I've battled all these horrors for so long. I just want peace. I want to be left alone. That was not part of this story.
    The Good Readers at Goodreads, however, had some very interesting things to say about this novel. Most were positive, but a few hated it, or didn't even finish it. I didn't hate it and I am certainly glad I finished it. Some of the comments included the fact that it is quite confusing, and not an easy read. Much is not explained, but thrown at the readers as if it is common knowledge. But gradually much of the perplexing technology, especially haunt-tech, does become much clearer as the story moves on. Once I got used to that, I was OK with it. To me, it gives the readers the sense that this is everyday stuff that should need no explanation, which forced my mind to fill in the blanks in a sort of "interactive" way. Creative reading.
    In breaking with my usual book review format, I will first supply a short-ish synopsis, then spend the rest of the time with my opinions and impressions. This is a very complicated read, so, to attempt to really tell the story would require much more than a review. But here's the gist.
    In the far, far future, Earth has been flooded and is mostly water. What remains of it is governed by Mars, particularly Memnos Tower. Each chapter is designated by its location, either Mars, Earth, or Nightshade, and a few other locations within these three. Nightshade is a rogue planet at the edge of the solar system which has developed extremely advanced technology that they sell to Mars, with strings attached.
    For the most part, males no longer exist and beings are "made"—genetically engineered and grown in a bag. The all female society actually, at least to my perceptions, was not a feminist statement, or meant to be. It was just the way things were. The few remaining male species on Mars are wild hyenae, or men-remnants, to be killed when encountered. Earth is now a poverty-stricken place and everything is in decay. The Earth part of the story takes place in the Far East. Fragrant Harbor was formerly Hong Kong, and The Fire Islands were Japan. This is where the kappas live, and where Lunae's nurse, Tersus Rhee, is from.
    The plot of the novel, which becomes clearer (sort of) as we read along, is that the "Grandmothers" formerly of Nightshade, exiled to Earth—two horrible creatures whose bodies are fused—have, after numerous failures, managed to grow a being that survives. Her name is Lunae, and she can "bend time," in other words, move into the future and back. She is the hito-bashira, or "woman who holds back the flood." Neither we, nor any of the characters, except for the Grandmothers, have the slightest clue as to the meaning, or purpose of Lunae's creation. But the Grandmothers know that she needs protection, because someone from Nightshade will arrive to destroy her. And that being has also been created, by Elaki, the Matriarch of Nightshade.
    She is Yskaterina. She must go through a "transformation" after she grows a bit, and awakens to find that her limbs have been cut off. New ones have been made for her, and by the time she's arrived on Earth to do her deed, the limb thing has almost become a fashion statement, with various decorated metals, and transparent plastics. She has also been programmed to love Elaki, even when she realizes there is only hate. She deals with that eventually. Along with her, is created an Animus, which kind of reminded me of the daemons in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Sort of. At first. It is male, and an insect—a sort of scorpion thing with a poison tail. There's some other things about it that I won't tell you, but it's pretty gross.
    The person who has been sent to protect Lunae is the Martian, Dreams-of-War. Before arriving, without her consent, the part of her that prevented her from feeling emotions has been removed in order to allow her to connect to Lunae. She doesn't like it one bit, and does connect. Lunae has been nursed by a Kappa, another genetically engineered creature, fit for a servant and otherwise not to be bothered with. By the descriptions she seems to resemble a toad. Lunae is the most "normal" human-ish creature, and she does care about others. She is the only one who treats the kappa with respect, and we find out as the story reaches its climax that this toad-like being is not only wise and courageous, but knowledgeable, skilled and excellent at making spur-of-the-moment life-saving decisions. These two were by far my favorite characters.
    One may have mixed feeling about Dreams-of-War. These Martians are arrogant—conquerors, or so they think, but the powers of Nightshade are becoming a threat. To be a "made" being is to be superior. Only the very lowest creatures still reproduce sexually. But we find she also screws up and has much more difficulty guarding Lunae than she would have thought. She eventually finds herself in serious trouble and facing certain death.
    One of the very confusing aspects of the novel are the way-too-many creatures. One feels there's a mix of genres, because there are ghosts and other "dead" who prey on the living. But the most difficult to grasp is the "haunt-tech," and I won't say much about it, because Williams only allows us snatches in small intervals about its nature, which provides a good mind exercise to figure it out. I'll just tell a bit.
    Dreams-of-War wears armor, that she never removes except for special reasons. Lunae wonders about bathing and bodily functions, but we never get answers on that. This armor, which she earned, is haunt-tech, and we gradually discover that it houses the spirit of its former owner, who was Embar Khair. The armor talks to Dreams-of-War, or talks to itself. It can sense danger and can flee on its own if Dreams-of-War becomes unconscious. It can be programmed. Hell, everything in the story can be programmed, and Dreams-of-War programs it to protect Lunae. It can also change form and do oh-so-many other things.
    One more thing I want to mention is the Chain. Again, created by highly advanced Nightshade, it allows travelers to move quickly between the three locations—Mars, Earth, and Nightshade, which is at the far reaches of the solar system, as I mentioned. The only real description of travelling through it is when Dreams-of-War comes to Earth. She does not particularly trust it to get her there safely, and it must go through a process to compensate for what I perceived as similar to a massive jet lag, only here, the difference is between the orbits of the two planets. It also brings one close to the Eldritch Realm, which is the spirit dimension, so in essence, one must brush with death to travel the Chain.
    That's all I will say about the story, because I do not want to give away more of the plot. So now I will share all the aspects of this story that I had issues with. First, the title, Banner of Souls. What does that mean? I still have no idea. This is certainly not a spiritual book, although the two main characters are doing something for the good of humanity. Dreams-of-War is on-assignment, which leaves Lunae, who probably does feel a sense of mission. She and the kappa are the only characters that feel much of anything.
    But it is the genetic engineering that I found so repulsive, especially since its practice is exploding here on Earth, NOW. These killer vaccines are a prime example. And not only genetic engineering, but transhumanism, also happening at blinding speed. Do people not realize that they are losing their souls? Do they also not realize they are being implanted with chips—many experts believe they are present in the vaccines. I agree. A change is coming over people since this plandemic began that is making them behave not only hatefully, but robotically. NOW, not in the far future. Is this OK?
    We do not need technology inserted into our bodies to make us super-humans, and this will all not bode well. We already have the capabilities to BE super humans and create with our minds, we have just forgotten. And this toxic technology is not only making us less able to remember who we are, but wiping out our genetic history at both the physical and non-physical levels. I chose this book expecting the opposite of what it presented.
    As mentioned, there is a lot of interaction with "spirits," but I must point out that spirit and soul are two different things. Spirit is what formerly inhabited the body, but soul is our divinity. There is no sense of divinity in this novel, and I am not talking about any "god" but the inherent sacred goodness that we should possess and is far beyond the physical realm. We need to return to morals and ethics. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia—all these fantasy or sci-fi/fantasy series include all manner of creatures and beings, but the foundation of the stories is that of goodness conquering evil. Yeah, supposedly that happened in this novel, but it left one unsatisfied that anyone's life would be the better for it, and that was a major failing. I really felt little to no emotion throughout the whole story, nor much connection to any of the characters. In order for a book to be successful, we must care about someone in it.
    The other thing that I found really superfluous was all the different creatures that we could have done without, for the most part, and only added confusion. I still don't really understand who the Kami were. In addition to the hyenae. or men-remnants, there are the gaezelles, the Earthbones, who are dead, but live in pits beneath the ground on Mars, and who capture anyone who ventures above them. The Changed, refers to genetically modified beings like the kappas, created to serve a purpose. The Sown reminded me of the dragons' teeth sown by Cadmus in classical Greek mythology, that rose out of the earth as warriors. But in the case of the Sown, they were bad-guys.
    As living beings take on technological characteristics, technology also takes on characteristics of living beings, such as the weir-wards that act as security guards. Here is a description of those at Cloud Terrace on Earth, where the Grandmothers live and Lunae was created.

And Rhee, in turn, hated the weir-wards: the forms they conjured up, beings of the distant past and distant deep, all teeth and eyes, swimming through the empty air of the passages and hallways, snapping at things that were not there. But if someone unauthorized had fallen into their path, the kappa knew, then the teeth would have proved all too real.

    We find however, that they can be easily disarmed. And speaking of teeth, when Dreams-of-War became a warrior and earned her armor, she got dental implants—metal teeth that were sharp and used in defense. It took her a while before her mouth stopped bleeding. Gosh, she must have been a lovely girl . . . .
    Here's another, referring to the ship that has brought Dreams-of-War through the Chain from Mars to Earth.

"Approach," she heard the ship's consciousness say, formed, perhaps, of some past pilot or a composite of pilots, haunt-shifted into the ship's black light system.

    Oh, yeah. There's the black light matrix, where spirits can be brought back. At one point, Dreams-of-War actually removes her armor—(all she must do is say "Armor!" and it stands before her rather than on her)—to bring back Embar Khair because she needs information of what happened a very long time ago.
    In one of her nefarious deeds, Yskaterina, now on her mission to kill Lunae, travels from Nightshade to Mars on some errands. But she also has a personal agenda that has nothing to do with her assignment. Here, she brings a Kami back to life and gives it the body of the former Mars Matriarch, for the purpose of destroying the present one. One can never tell who is whom, and whose body one inhabits here.
    In any case, this should give you an idea of the story. I really do not make a recommendation either way about reading this book. Perhaps if I read it again, now that I understand it, and I'm over the—well, shock would probably be an appropriate word—I might like it much more.
    For more books concerning Aliens, please visit their Index Page
    Below is a shot of Mars, taken on August 27, 2003, nearly eighteen years ago from today when it was the closest to earth it had been in 60,000 years—34.6 million miles away. It can also be as many as 249 million miles away.
Universe, we have a problem: NASA's investigating an outage on the Hubble Space Telescope

Mars

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