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The Ghost Sister (2001)

by Liz Williams

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1514139,608 (3.32)6
The fate of a planet lies with an outcast woman and a mysterious visitor.... In this richly imagined and thought-provoking novel, Liz Williams tells the story of a world engineered to preserve the precarious balance between animal and human. To this world comes an emissary from a distant planet who will walk the razor-thin line between consciousness and instinct, freedom and conformity, life and death. On Monde D'Isle a rugged people live in union with their world. They migrate with the tides of the moon, sense the meridians of the planet, and slip into a Dreamtime that grants them access to -- and escape from -- the darker urges of their animal nature. Mevennen ai Mordha is out of tune with her people's bloodmind. She is protected by her devoted brother Eleres, who refuses to listen to those who say that Mevennen is not fit to live. Still, Mevennen fears that even her brother will give in to his instincts during the time of the hunt, when the Mondhaith seek out the weakest as their prey. Taking her on an expedition in hope of a cure, Eleres has brought Mevennen deep into the wilderness. There they are visited by a strange woman who they are certain is a ghost, but who is really a Gaian anthropologist charged with bringing utopia to their world. She promises to heal Mevennen -- but it is a promise that comes with a terrible price....… (more)
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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
She looked so vulnerable, but to my utter dismay I sensed something beneath my love and pity; something old and insistent and dark, that called for death . . . My vision blackened and I looked down into the nightmare of the bloodmind.

Three missionaries and an anthropologist from the stable, terraformed planet of Irie St Syre, travel to the planet of Monde D’Isle, to find out what became of the colonists who travelled there thousands of years ago. Expecting to find a nicely terraformed planet, they are shocked to find that the head of the colonising expedition never even began the terraforming process, deciding instead to alter the colonist to fit the harsh environment of their new home, leaving them no longer entirely human.

Interesting world-building and discussions about whether the new arrivals would be justified in interfering in Monde D'Isle either by switching on the terraforming machines or by trying to change the inhabitants' biology and culture. ( )
  isabelx | May 4, 2015 |
very quick here. I enjoyed this book, loved the anthropological perspective, the questions being asked about the responsibility of the colonial source to the colonized centuries later, and vice versa; questions about religion, and environmentalism, and cultural relativity, and fundamentalism, and human potentials.

I wish the questions had perhaps been pondered in more depth, rather than just raised... but that's just me: I like to see my philosophical questions tangled with in my speculative fiction... ( )
1 vote rudyleon | Aug 25, 2007 |
I was recommended the books of Liz Williams, as part of a list of authors. I’d read and mainly enjoyed all of the other authors in the list, so figured Williams had to be worth a shot. In my usual over-zealous approach to such things, I bought all of Williams’ books available in paperback in a oner. As I read Williams’ first book, The Ghost Sister, I thought I’d made a bit of a mistake.

In a future where Earth has colonised many planets through the galaxy, and has in itself fallen into memory, The Ghost Sister describes a mission from one colony world, Irie St Syre, to a failed colony on a world called Monde D’Isle. On Monde D’Isle the descendants of an original colony expedition generations before have become a curious blend of humanity – not quite human, not quite animal – who share at times a collective consciousness called the bloodmind, which both allows them an absolute connection to the environment they live in, but also occasionally drives them to collectively act and hunt as a pack, their individualities temporarily submerged into the whole. The ghost sister of the title is Mevennen, a young woman who lacks this link and is therefore ‘landblind’. The narrative drive focuses on Mevennen’s brother, Eleres, and his determination to cure, or at least protect, his sister, who is seen as either a burden to be ashamed of, or as a weak link who should be killed for the sake of the group.
Into this comes the Mission from Irie St Syre, determined to find out what happened on this failed colony. They become involved in the affairs of Eleres and Mevennen, and what they discover threatens to disturb the very meaning of what life is on Monde D’Isle.

So far, so ho-hum. In all honesty, the book’s plot never quite does it for me – it’s full of quasi-science which borders on the mystical that rarely makes cohesive sense, but clearly wants to THINK that it’s making sense (I find these things much easier if authors just say ‘look, we’re ignoring science, just pretend it’s magic, OK’ than if they try and fail to explain things scientifically). Add in that the culture of Irie St Syre comes over as too PC for its own good (the society is a matriarchal vegan bisexual one that we never really get an adequate picture of), and writing that never quite gets above the level of pedestrian, and I was fairly disappointed. Looking at the response to the book at the time, it was hailed as a ‘multi-layered social commentary, blending action, first contact and a love story’ and was nominated for the Phillip K Dick Award. If I hadn’t already bought more books by Williams, I’d have abandoned her after this. ( )
1 vote MikeFarquhar | May 27, 2007 |
Interesting intersection between two societies when one of them has been changed by science. Whether it's right or wrong is examined and who has the right to make these decisions is also looked at.

Interesting. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Apr 19, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Liz Williamsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Parkenson, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Prologue. Eleres ai Mordha, journal. It was the summer before my second migration, the summer in which Sereth killed the child, that I finally learned to hate and fear my own nature.
I stepped into Mevennen's room to find my sister lying on the couch, her face drawn and lined with pain.
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The fate of a planet lies with an outcast woman and a mysterious visitor.... In this richly imagined and thought-provoking novel, Liz Williams tells the story of a world engineered to preserve the precarious balance between animal and human. To this world comes an emissary from a distant planet who will walk the razor-thin line between consciousness and instinct, freedom and conformity, life and death. On Monde D'Isle a rugged people live in union with their world. They migrate with the tides of the moon, sense the meridians of the planet, and slip into a Dreamtime that grants them access to -- and escape from -- the darker urges of their animal nature. Mevennen ai Mordha is out of tune with her people's bloodmind. She is protected by her devoted brother Eleres, who refuses to listen to those who say that Mevennen is not fit to live. Still, Mevennen fears that even her brother will give in to his instincts during the time of the hunt, when the Mondhaith seek out the weakest as their prey. Taking her on an expedition in hope of a cure, Eleres has brought Mevennen deep into the wilderness. There they are visited by a strange woman who they are certain is a ghost, but who is really a Gaian anthropologist charged with bringing utopia to their world. She promises to heal Mevennen -- but it is a promise that comes with a terrible price....

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