From Publishers Weekly
On the heels of his whimsical fantasy, Lust (2003), British author Ryman makes a triumphant return to science fiction in this superbly crafted tale. Life in Kizuldah, a village in Karzistan, has changed little over the centuries, though most homes have electricity. Chung Mae, the local fashion expert, earns her living by taking women into the city for makeovers and by providing teenagers with graduation dresses. Intelligent and ambitious, this wonderfully drawn character is also illiterate and too often ruled by her emotions. One day, the citizens of Kizuldah and the rest of the world are subjected to the testing of Air, a highly experimental communications system that uses quantum technology to implant an equivalent of the Internet in everyone's mind. During the brief test, Mae is accidentally trapped in the system, her mind meshed with that of a dying woman. Left half insane, she now has the ability to see through the quantum realm into both the past and the future. Mae soon sets out on a desperate quest to prepare her village for the impending, potentially disastrous establishment of the Air network. For all its special effects, what makes the novel particularly memorable is the detailed portrait of Kizuldah and its inhabitants. Besides being a treat for fans of highly literate SF, this intensely political book has important things to say about how developed nations take the Third World for granted.
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*Starred Review* As pervasive technology ensures the rapid spread of pop culture and information access, few corners of the planet remain untouched. One of those is Kizuldah, Karzistan, a rice-farming village of perhaps 30 families, predominantly Chinese Buddhist but with a strong Muslim presence, among whom sharply intelligent though illiterate Mae Chung, who guides village women in dressmaking, makeup, and hairstyling, is an informal leader. When the UN decides to test the radical new technology Air, designed to make peoples' minds the receivers of a worldwide information network, Mae is boiling laundry and chatting with elderly Mrs. Tung. The massive surge of Air energy swamps them, and when the test is finished, Mrs. Tung is dead, and Mae has absorbed 90 years of her memories. Rocked by the unexpected deaths and disorientation, the UN delays fully implementing Air, but Mae sees at once that her way of life is ending. Struggling with information overload, the resentment of much of the village, and a complex family situation, she works fiercely to learn what she needs to ride the tiger of change. Portraying one world dissolving into another so quickly that only the smartest and hungriest can keep up, Ryman fills it with intimate, emotional scenes of love and jealousy as well as such surreal events as a calm exchange on cosmology with a talking dog. Enthralling. Roberta JohnsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved