- Paperback: 599 pages
- Publisher: Pyr; Edition Unstated edition (September 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591025958
- ISBN-13: 978-1591025955
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 94 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#1,210,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #61707 in Science Fiction (Books)
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River of Gods Paperback – September 30, 2007
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About the Author
Ian McDonald is the author of Planesrunner, the first part of the Everness series. He has written thirteen science fiction novels-including the 2011 John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner for Best Novel, The Dervish House-and has lost count of the number of stories. He's been nominated for every major science fiction award, and even won some. Ian also works in television, in program development-all those reality shows have to come from somewhere-and has written for the screen as well as print. He lives in Northern Ireland, just outside Belfast, and loves to travel.
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However, similar to my complaint about 'The Quantum Thief' (though to a lesser degree) I felt the author made the reader work too hard.
First and foremost was the sheer number of Hindu words used. I read the Kindle version of the book. It was only when I reached the end that I became aware that a glossary was included. That being said, when reading an ebook, it's not easy to access a glossary at the end of of a book. Had I been reading a conventional paper book, I think I would have tired of constantly flipping back to the glossary. The embedded OED in the Kindle did help out with some of the words but not all of them.
I liked the setting, a futuristic India. However it is a fragmented India. Instead of one large country there seems to be several smaller states such as Bharat (with its capital in Varanasi) and Awadh (with its capital in Delhi). Nowhere did the author explicitly detail how present-day India was divided so the reader is left to try and piece these not insignificant details together.
I felt like the author skimped on action and required the readers to infer too much. Moving from one chapter to the next, a reference would be made to an action sequence and again the reader would be left to infer what had taken place.
It's as if John Le Carre had decided to write a sci-fi/cyberpunk novel. Still enjoyed it a lot but came away feeling like this should have been a five star read.
This was the last sentence I read before walking away from this book.
From the first chapter I realized that there was a stark dissonance between the structure of the story and the Indian skin that it wore. Much of the book reads just like the insipid quote above. It’s generally boring and uninspiring with a few Indian nouns clumsily tacked on. The more I read, the more I realized that there was just nothing tying these two together, and that it was just a generic story forced into an Indian setting. What is perhaps most unsatisfying about this arrangement for a reader is that there is simply nothing Indian about the story, and that the world described in the novel is grossly an outsider’s perspective of India masquerading as indigenous.
I really want to stop short of pointing the finger of shameless cultural appropriation and orientalism, but the fact of the matter is that this is a British person trying to express mastery of Indian culture and simply failing; an endeavor that is historically tragic. I get the feeling that the author read up on India, spent a few months there, was enchanted by its diversity, romantic spiritualism, and soul-crushing poverty, and then figured he’d write about it. Except that he didn’t write about it; he wrote an occidental story and then wrapped it Indian words. I will admit that he used most terms properly, but at the end of the day, it just seemed he was using these words to build up his story, rather than let his story’s structure naturally reach out for the words. I got the distinct impression that the author had a word bank full of Indian terms and that he allotted so many words to each chapters, whether they belonged there or not.
The writing of this book is also terribly inconsistent, fluctuating from laughably bad to dizzyingly charming. Each chapter was a crapshoot, not knowing if the author would dazzle or disappoint.
Overall, this is a disappointing book. It had its moments, but ultimately is a book I’m comfortable walking away from after 160 pages.
The characters were much more approachable than those in DERVISH HOUSE but just as alive and "real". The India of 2047 (the 100th anniversary) is not one that Gandhi would have admired. Not only did most Muslims break away from the mother country but the nation itself is in regional shatters, semi-independent nations much like those that existed after the fall of the Soviet empire.
A visionary map would have been helpful as would the placement of unfamiliar Indian terms in the FRONT instead of the back of the book. Once again, the reader is deluged with colors, concepts, new and odd ideas. This future India is realized almost perfectly. In fact, except for the ending, it is almost a perfect book, heady with the exotic, aromatic, visually exploding land we all know but don't really know.
The language was at times pitfalls. Why use "soapi" instead of "soaps" or "noo" instead of "new"? This realized vision, though, is mesmerizing and hypnotic. It is the dawn of the Singularity, that moment when machine intelligence surpasses us and all history stops. Several major themes run throughout the book - control of AI, technological advances that seem almost magical, advanced science but these great wonders lie on a base of old conflicts - caste systems, Hindu-Muslim rivalries, resource wars, gender wars, politics.
The story spreads its wings and then crumples at the end. I reread the ending several times but never really understood Universe 22517 seeing us as gods and rescuing AI's through a wormhole. It was all too elusive - more evocative than explanatory. But those characters! Simply stunning presentations - perhaps some of the best I've ever come across. My Grade - A-