Williams, Liz 1965–

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Williams, Liz 1965–

PERSONAL:

Born 1965; daughter of a conjuror and a novelist; partner's name Charles, died, December, 2002. Education: University of Manchester and University of Sussex, degrees in philosophy of science and artificial intelligence; University of Cambridge, Ph.D., 1993.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Brighton, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Worked at various odd jobs, including Tarot card reader, administrator of education program in Kazakhstan, and educational consultant; Brighton Women's Center, Brighton, England, information technology manager; codirector of a witchcraft supply shop in Glastonbury, England.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Philip K. Dick Award nomination, 2005, for Banner of Souls.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Ghost Sister, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2001.

Empire of Bones, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2002.

The Poison Master, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2003.

Nine Layers of Sky, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2003.

Banner of Souls, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Tom Kidd) The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

"DETECTIVE INSPECTOR CHEN" SERIES

(With Jon Foster) Snake Agent, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.

The Demon and the City, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Precious Dragon, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2007.

"DARKLAND" SERIES

Darkland, Tor (London, England), 2006.

Bloodmind, Tor (London, England), 2007.

Author of blog, Liz Williams: Journal.

SIDELIGHTS:

The daughter of a gothic novelist and a part-time magician, Liz Williams was naturally drawn to the world of fantasy and the occult, even working for a time as a Tarot card reader. Much of her interest has been channeled into writing fantasy stories and, more recently, full-length novels that have garnered attention from a wide assortment of critics, both in her native England and the United States.

The Ghost Sister, Williams's debut novel, is set on the space colony of Monde D'Isle, whose inhabitants have developed a mysterious bond to the land that allows them to predict weather changes, travel by ley lines, find precious water and occasionally go feral with a wildness called the bloodmind. Those without this bond are dismissed as "ghosts," outcasts and embarrassments to their families. The story centers on the efforts of Eleres to heal his sister Mevennen, one of these ghosts. "On the surface, this novel is Eleres's hero's journey—his quest to help his sister and to comprehend his world. Below the surface, however, it is a parable about the consequences of action without understanding," wrote Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Marsha Valance. Eventually, the two siblings encounter an off-worlder, a "Gaian" priestess who is part of an expedition from the colony's homeworld, sent to discover what went wrong. "What the expedition learns about the history of the colony comes as a surprise to all. But the solution, as with so many puzzle stories, seems less interesting than the setup," concluded New York Times reviewer Gerald Jonas. Others were happier with the results. Writing for InfinityPlus.co.uk, Chris Butler maintained: "The first thing to say about The Ghost Sister is that the concept is quite breathtaking in its elegance. The reader has a sense of this quite early on, but it becomes crystal clear on reaching the end. The novel is also beautifully written, with engaging characters, and it confounds expectations while at the same time surpassing them."

Williams followed her debut with Empire of Bones, a "first contact" story of a young girl's encounter with an alien species. While most such tales have been set in Europe or the United States, Williams' is set in a future India where fundamentalist Hindus have restored the caste system. Jaya Nihalani, member of the Untouchable cast, has been a prophet, a warrior, and civil rights crusader, but now she lays dying in a hospital from an incurable disease known as Selenge. There she begins to have visions of the Rasatrans, the alien species that first seeded the earth so long ago, who are drawn to Jaya, a rare "Receiver" able to communicate with them. "The homeworld of Rasatra's politics, culture and social structure is crafted in such intricate detail it feels as if Liz Williams is a native social anthropologist," noted Harriet Klausner on BooksnBytes.com. It turns out that the Rasatrans are eager to absorb a now-developed Earth into their empire, and Jaya is the key to ensuring a peaceful transition. This time New York Times reviewer Jonas was more impressed, writing that Jaya's "wary alliance with a similarly minded alien forms the heart of this savvy and satisfying tale."

While these first two novels contain "sophisticated tales of cultural confrontations, according to Jonas The Poison Master strikes out in a new direction, less easy to categorize and in some ways more challenging." Set on a planet called Latent Emanation, Williams' third novel centers on Alivet Dee, a descendant of the Elizabethan magus John Dee and a skilled apothecary and alchemist in her own right. When her sister is taken as a slave by the alien Lords of the Night who tyrannize her world, Alivet finds herself teaming up with off-worlder Ari Ghairen, the Poison Master, who is determined to overthrow the Lords. "Part alien adventure and part existential exploration, this top-notch tale establishes Williams … as an author to watch," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Williams started the "Detective Inspector Chen" series with the publishing of Snake Agent in 2005. A young Chinese woman is wrongfully sent to Hell and Inspector Chen is hired by the family to investigate. In Hell, Chen's demon equivalent, Seneschal Zhu Irzh, is investigating the case of human women being brought to Hell for use as prostitutes. Both are hitting bureaucratic roadblocks and they eventually pair up to solve the mystery. Reviews were mixed. Rich Horton, writing in SF Site, commented that the "central mystery develops quite satisfyingly, leading to a resolution that is effective enough, if perhaps just slightly too rapid and too pat. Both Inspector Chen and his infernal counterpart, Irzh, are engaging characters, reflecting their different origins nicely." A contributor to Publishers Weekly had positive remarks about the story but wrote that "the plot might have benefited from a few more action scenes." In a Bookslut review, Beth Dugan praised Williams, saying that her "language is lyrical and elegant."

In the sequel, The Demon and the City, Irzh is assigned to Earth to assist Chen in solving the mysteries between Heaven, Hell, and Earth. When Chen returns from a vacation, he finds Irzh implicated in a high profile death. Chen's intervening, however, makes the situation worse as the pair find out how far reaching the consequences may be for all three worlds. Reviews for the sequel were mostly positive. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called the novel "a rich, complicated tapestry." Jackie Cassada, writing in Library Journal, said the "novel should appeal to both mystery and fantasy readers." Booklist contributor Carl Hays described the novel as "uniquely imaginative," adding that it was a "surreal fusion of Chinese mythology, paranormal high jinks, and satisfyingly suspenseful sleuthing."

In 2006, Williams began the "Darkland" series with a novel of the same name. Darkland tells two stories from two different characters: Vali Hallsdottir, a Skald agent and spy on the snowy, Scandinavian-like planet Muspell, and Ruan of Mondhile, whose story involves his ordeal with the vampyrric Gemaley. In due course the stories link up as Vali goes to Mondhile in search of an ex-lover. Mark Yon, writing in SFFWorld.com, noted Williams' use of strong female characters of past novels, adding that Vali was written in the same vein. Yon concluded that "this is a good read with some interesting takes on old SF ideas."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of Nine Layers of Sky, p. 76; October 1, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of Banner of Souls, p. 319; September 1, 2005, Carl Hays, review of Snake Agent, p. 76; August 1, 2006, Carl Hays, review of The Demon and the City, p. 58.

Bookseller, December 9, 2005, review of Banner of Souls, p. 33; December 9, 2005, review of Darkland, p. 33.

Library Journal, October 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Banner of Souls, p. 58; July 1, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of The Demon and the City, p. 71.

New York Times Book Review, July 29, 2001, Gerald Jonas, review of The Ghost Sister, p. 14; June 16, 2002, Gerald Jonas, review of Empire of Bones, p. 18; January 5, 2003, Gerald Jonas, review of The Poison Master, p. 18; June 19, 2005, Gerald Jonas, review of Banner of Souls.

Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, review of The Poison Master, p. 39; August 11, 2003, review of Nine Layers of Sky, p. 263; August 16, 2004, review of The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories, p. 47; August 23, 2004, review of Banner of Souls, p. 42; August 8, 2005, review of Snake Agent, p. 217; June 5, 2006, review of The Demon and the City, p. 41.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 2001, Marsha Valance, review of The Ghost Sister, pp. 374-375.

ONLINE

Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (July 31, 2007), Beth Dugan, review of Snake Agent.

BooksnBytes.com,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (July 14, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Empire of Bones.

InfinityPlus.co.ukhttp://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (July 14, 2003), Chris Butler, review of The Ghost Sister.

Liz Williams Home Page,http://www.arkady.btinternet.co.uk (July 14, 2003), author biography.

SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (July 31, 2007), Rich Horton, review of Snake Agent.

SFFWorld.com,http://www.sffworld.com/ (February 28, 2007), Mark Yon, review of Darkland.

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