End of the Beginning
By Cheryl Morgan
And so we come to book three. As is the way with trilogies (a law that Storm Constantine still respects though most people in the multi-volume fantasy industry seem to have abandoned it) there must be a conclusion. We must, at last, discover how the Wraeththu came to be. That, after all, was the point of the series.
But we can’t just have that. Ghosts of Blood and Innocence is, after all, a work of fiction, a story book. The author needs to tell a tale. Fortunately there are plenty of hooks left over from the previous books in the series for her to hang her plot upon. And indeed, as we would expect of a writer of Constantine’s experience, they were set up deliberately long ago.
There are a number of themes running through the Histories of the Wraeththu series, but perhaps the overriding one is the matter of generations. The first generation of Wraeththu (except perhaps Thiede, whose origins are central to the entire mystery) were all incepted. They began life as humans and changed. The second generation, on the other hand, are born. Whatever taint of humanity they bear, it is in their genes, not in attitudes learned and held over from childhood. These are perhaps the true Wraeththu, a new race of beings, as they were intended to be.
Or were they intended? Constantine has given us plenty of potential culprits. Indeed, she’s given us an entire War in Heaven as a background. Earth, it seems, has been the plaything of Higher Beings for millennia. The sedmin are by no means the loyal friends they first seemed, but they are also merely agents of a more remote, more mysterious race. Part of growing up for the Wraeththu (and here they show a very human side to their nature) is to learn not to be pawns, to take responsibility for their own destiny. Not just as individuals, but as a race, they need to grow up.
Ponclast considered her question. ‘Savagery, in itself, can be a belief system. Youthful male humans are, or were, capable of terrible things. I did terrible things and at the time it seemed right. There was a heady euphoria to doing the unspeakable, like being a god. I believed that Varrs should control Megalithica — I wouldn’t go so far as to say I planned world domination. Uigenna were a mess, and the other tribes weak and fragmented. I could see that Wraeththu needed order.’
Ponclast, you may remember, is the number one big bad villain of the entire Wraeththu saga. And yet, even he can learn. In Ghosts of Blood and Innocence he has at last come to terms with what he has done with his life, and found peace.
This doesn’t tell you anything about what happens in the story, but it hopefully tells you everything about what happens in the book. It is, perhaps, a shame that it takes an external threat for the Wraeththu to put aside their differences and stand together, but that is also very human of them.
Of course they are not human. Indeed, that is the entire point of their existence. Another theme of the book is that we should ask, not just about the ‘how’ of the Wraeththu, but the ‘why’. Was it necessary that humanity be superseded? Are the Wraeththu better people? If so, how? And was that what their creator(s) intended? The reason the book succeeds, rather than just being some pulp-style power trip of mankind being replaced by big-brained science fiction fans, is that Constantine recognizes that philosophy alone does not make a superior being. I’m not totally convinced that the world would be a better place if we were all Wraeththu rather than human, but I am absolutely convinced that Constantine thought deeply about what would make for better people in writing the books. That I’m always happy to admire.
There’s a shiny new Tor hardcover of Ghosts of Blood and Innocence available in US shops any day now (if not already). But as usual I’ll take time out to remind you, especially UK readers, that you can buy trade paperback versions of the same book from Constantine’s own publishing company. You probably won’t find the books in UK shops, but the nice Mr. Emsley at The Aust Gate can get copies for you. And Storm will be happy if you buy direct from her.