Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

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The Thursday Evening "Off To A Nice Dinner" Review: Empire Of Bones

Liz Williams' second novel Empire Of Bones is a prime example of why the mid list is a good thing. An intelligent meditation on the nature of colonisation and its effects, this is the type of book that will never be a best seller. It won't gain a cult following, and it won't change the world over night. What it will do is grab the minds and hearts of a few thousand readers, and get them to experience life in a completely different culture, and help them understand what it means to be truly downtrodden.

Jaya Nihalani is a Dalit, an Untouchable. In the reconstructed caste system of a mind-21st century India disease and political manipulation have led to her rebellion, and now to her slow death in a charity hospital. But her life is about to change dramatically, as she finds herself the channel for communications with an alien presence in the solar system. The civilisation that seeded Earth millions of years ago is coming back, ready to bring its latest colony into the bustling hive of galactic life. But Jaya is a member of the lowest caste of a country that has seen the damage that colonisation can cause, and she's not ready to blindly accept her new role. It's a story that crosses light years, and climbs mountains as we follow the agents of change and the seeds they sow.

Williams mixes the complexities of global politics with Jaya's personal difficulties, and the Byzantine nature of caste relationships in the complex multi-species civilisation that fills a bustling galaxy with biological wonders. It's a heady brew that leads us down complex mazes of moral ambiguities, where no one is right, no one is wrong, and the ulitmate evil may be inaction and passive acceptance of an imposed status quo.

Empire Of Bones has its flaws, but it points out Williams as a writer to watch. If you enjoyed Gwynneth Jones' White Queen, you'll find this a similar work, mixing flawed humans and enigmatic aliens with complex power politics and deep undercurrents.
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