Sunday, July 18, 2010

River of Gods

Just as Cleo Paskal's book Global Warring had raised my consciousness of the political consequences of environmental change, I picked up River of Gods by Ian McDonald.

Set in India in 2047, River of Gods is a complex book interweaving the stories of nine different characters, who gradually drift together as their stories overlap. A key backdrop to the story is the failure of the monsoon for several years, sparking water wars. The book brought to life - or at least fictional life - the geopolitical consequences of environmental change.

The book also weaves together the traditions of India with the future as impacted by artificial intelligence, robots, and nanotechnology.

River of Gods is a longish book at 600 pages, and is rather demanding at the beginning with so many characters being introduced. But it's worth the effort; as the characters become more familiar, the book becomes completely engrossing. It posits adults that can be surgically transformed into a neutral gender, children can be genetically engineered, there are laws prohibiting computers which surpass a particular level of Turing intelligence, soap operas which dominate people's lives many of whose characters are AI-generated

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