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Banner of Souls

"Tolkien meets Terminator" is my thumbnail summary of Liz Williams's sf novel Banner of Souls. Ms. Williams is an extraordinary writer of science fiction; her 2003 book Nine Layers of Sky is among the finest I've seen. Banner, published a year later, is severely flawed: by turns moody, ornate, perverse, poetic, and implausible. Elements of the story bring to mind the styles of writers Dan Simmons, Philip Pullman, Frank Herbert, Robert Charles Wilson, Samuel R. Delany, and Vernor Vinge.

Horror plus high-tech works well—within limits. But Williams goes too far. Her plot threads grow to universe-saving proportions and then unravel. Her characters are flat. Lovingly-described cruelty too often takes center stage. Banner of Souls is fast reading, gothic, skillful, but dissatisfying. Maybe with the volume turned down it could have been better.

^z - 2009-07-09