The illustrated Prophets of the ghost ants – Part one: The roach boy, by Clark Thomas Carlton

The illustrated Prophets of the ghost ants, part one: The roach boy, by Clark Thomas Carlton Book Cover The illustrated Prophets of the ghost ants, part one: The roach boy, by Clark Thomas Carlton
Clark Thomas Carlton, Mozchops (illustrator)
Science fiction
Seven of cups LLC
November 13 2014

Blurb from Amazon:

The Story: 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.

Ah, yeah.  I remember hearing about The Prophets of the ghost ants quite some time ago, though it kind of disappeared back in the "hmm, interesting"-stacks.   Suddenly this edition came into view, so I went for it.

Turns out, I have two problems: The first is that this is only the first part of a novel that has been split into several parts for publishing. Not a series, just splits. This leaves part 1 as a fairly short read without its own contained story arc or any, uh, ending.   I would probably have kept reading if I had the novel in its entirety in front of me, because where it ended I ranked it as a kind of "Eh, okay, this could turn into something".   But am I going to actually obtain and read part 2?  I honestly don't think so, because part 1 didn't charm me quite enough to stay attentive after a gap like that.

The reason for this split-up publishing is, of course, the "illustrated" bit of the title.  Looking at the dedicated website,  yes - those are some great, atmospheric images, and they add a fair bit of texture to the tale.   But I have to admit - I didn't really get much from the way they appeared in e-ink on my kindle voyage.  It just felt like a sad exercise when compared to those lovely full-scale colour views as linked previously.  Maybe I'm too myopic,  maybe they're really intended for viewing on colourful tablet screens.

In the end, I just didn't feel like I was gaining anything to make up for the absence of a whole story.

Sad, because, well, I think I would have been more positive about this novel if it had been presented to me in a more fortunate manner.  It's also sad because I would love to see more illustrated novels outside of children's books.  It just... it just has to work.   It has to allow me to dwell on "Oh, evolution shrank humans and here they are now as... ant parasites?!" - which is really just so cool! -  and not distract me with, uh, insufficiencies.   Icky insufficiencies.

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