Prophets of the Ghost Ants
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"I had my proverbial socks knocked off … extraordinary scope of imagination … it’s a great novel … a classic … a tour-de-force of the imagination … a perfect example of very skillful storytelling, something the field could use more of. The novel never flags, every word counts … It’s got all the sense of wonder that’s missing in science fiction today. I simply could not put this book down." - Paul Cook, Galaxy’s Edge magazine
"BEST OF 2011. Innovative ... intensely memorable ... drama and intelligence ... fascinating ... a gripping read." - Perry Crowe, Kirkus Reviews
"I'm fascinated by the world building in Clark Carlton's Prophets of the Ghost Ants." - Annalee Newitz, i09.com
"An engaging piece of fiction built upon an imaginative idea. Even though everything takes place on a very small scale, the scope of the conflict remains epic and the nature of the conflict remains quintessentially human. The book has so much packed into it - from an exploration of class divisions, to the religious hypocrisy of the ruling and priestly classes, to the causes of religiously driven wars, to a coming-of-age story for Anand - that any reader will almost certainly find multiple levels of material in it to interest them." - Aaron Pounds, Dreaming of Other Worlds
"Readers who dare enter the realm of Prophets of the Ghost Ants should be prepared to be carried off, as if by a giant swarm of locusts, to a world of epic fantasy that rivals Lord of the Rings and is on par with the likes of Dune or Watership Down ... You’ll be wishing for the quick release of a second book in what promises to be a trilogy." - Ken Korczak, Best eBook Reviews
The setting is Earth of the far-flung future, when all traces of our civilization have long vanished. The catastrophes of distant ages -- natural and man-made -- have passed into legend and mysticism. And yet ... the world is no utopia. Technology is unknown. The animal kingdom as we know it is extinct. Birds, reptiles, mammals -- all lost to endless, unforgiving cycles of planetary death and rebirth.
Humankind has clung stubbornly to existence -- thanks to a perverse turn of Evolution. For as the weary planet became inexorably depleted, our species adapted by growing smaller with every passing eon, until at last we stood in parity with the only other “higher” species to survive -- insects. And just as our current society has domesticated animals to sustain ourselves, the human societies of this future have yoked insects to their service. Food, weapons, clothing, art -- even the most sacred religious beliefs -- are derived from Humankind’s profound intertwining with the once-lowly insect world.
In this savage landscape, men cannot hope to dominate. Ceaselessly and viciously, humans are stalked by Night Wasps, Lair Spiders, and Grass Roaches. And men are still men. Corrupt elites ruthlessly enforce a rigid caste system over a debased and ignorant populace. Duplicitous clergymen and power-mongering Royalty wage pointless wars for their own glory. Fantasies of a better life, a better world, serve only to torment those who dare to dream.
One so cursed is a half-breed slave named Anand, a dung-collector of the midden caste who, against all possibility, rises above hopelessness to lead his people against a genocidal army of men who fight atop fearsome, translucent Ghost Ants. And to his horror, Anand finds that this merciless enemy is led by someone from his own family ... a religious zealot bent on the conversion of all non-believers ... or their extermination.
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Polexima, “that your military caste is depleted due to someone’s idiotic insistence that you war on two fronts.” Silence. Maleps turned red through his sweat. The creak of his armor filled the quiet as he marched off. Anand revealed his next steps. “We have very little time. Over the next ten days, I will make an appeal to the laboring peoples of the mounds to enlist them in our efforts. Kings, you will be informed by runners as to when your people should be assembled.” The nobles and generals
wear a yellow sash and have parity with the foreman. It had been a time of famine, a time of even less joy, but Pleckoo was ecstatic over his recent elevation. He bragged that he was leaving on a journey for the Holy Mound, where he would train for his new responsibilities. Once there, he met the outcaste acolytes of other mounds and one of them stole what little stash of food he had. Venaris had fewer mushrooms for its laborers than Cajoria and all but its priests and nobles were starving. One
prepare for the feast. He was suddenly serious as he looked at Anand. “Boy of Two Tribes, do you know why you were named ‘Anand’?” Anand looked at his mother. “No,” he said. “Anand means ‘worker’ in the Slopeish tongue.” “But in our old tongue it means something else,” said Zedral. “It means ‘spanner,’ a link between two worlds, like the bridge that runs through the Tar Marsh to the Dustlands.” “If I had a choice, I know which world I would live in,” said Anand in bitterness. The mildew
do not sustain relations with any nation that abuses its people. If you choose not to return to Cajoria, we will send another emissary once we have learned your language. You are as free as any of our citizens to do as you please. Good night, Anand.” As exhausted as he was, Anand could not sleep that night as fantasies raced in his mind. He saw himself on a finely appointed riding ant, surrounded by a glittering entourage. His brown skin would be concealed by a fine gold-powder and his perfume
not comfortable for Anand or Jidla. She prodded the flyer by rubbing the scents of her thumbs on the stumps of the antennae. The locust responded with a combination of jumps and short glides that were jarring. As it grew dark, the locust was even less cooperative. They were nearing the capitol when the locust landed on a large and deep-throated gloxinia flower. The flower was a rich red and its surface was a seductive velvet that demanded exploration. “I’m afraid we have to dismount and let this