A superpower of two billion people, a dozen new nations from Kerela to the Himalayas, artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, water wars, strange new genders, genetically improved children that age at half the rate of baseline humanity, and a population where males outnumber females four to one.
This is India in 2047, one hundred years after its birth.
In the new nation of Bharat, in the face of the failure of the monsoon, nine lives are swept together — a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout — to decide the future of Mother India.
River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures — one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. A war is fought, a love is betrayed, a mystery from a different world decoded, as the great river Ganges flows on.
Praise for River of Gods:
“[A] bold, brave look at India on the eve of its centennial, 41 years from now...McDonald takes his readers from India's darkest depths to its most opulent heights, from rioting mobs and the devastated poor to high-level politicians and lavish parties. He handles his complex plot with flair and confidence and deftly shows how technological advances and social changes have subtly changed lives. RIVER OF GODS is a major achievement from a writer who is becoming one of the best sf novelists of our time.” —Washington Post
“[P]erhaps his most accomplished novel to date… reminiscent of William Gibson in full-throttle cultural-immersion mode, packed with technical jargon, religious and sociological observation and allusions to art both high and low… RIVER OF GODS amply rewards careful consideration and more than delivers its share of straight-ahead entertainment. Already a multiple-award nominee following its British publication, McDonald's latest ranks as one of the best science fiction novels published in the United States this year.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A staggering achievement, brilliantly imagined and endlessly surprising ... A brave, brilliant and wonderful novel.” —Christopher Priest, The Guardian
This ambitious portrait of a future India from British author McDonald (Desolation Road) offers multitudes: gods, castes, protagonists, cultures. Nine disparate characters, including a cop, a scientist and a stand-up comic, act out their related dramas be they personal, political or of the mystery-thriller variety in successive chapters within each of the book's five sections. In the India of 2047, genetically engineered children comprise a new caste, adults can be surgically transformed into a neutral gender, a water war has broken out as the Ganges threatens to run dry, AIs are violently destroyed if they approach levels akin to human intelligence, and something strange has just appeared in the solar system. The deliberate pace and lack of explanation require patience at the outset, but readers will become increasingly hooked as the pieces of McDonald's richly detailed world fall into place. Already nominated for both Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke awards, this is sure to one of the more talked-about SF novels of the year.
An Amazing Story Set in an India of the Near Future
I just finished “River of Gods” which is the first book in Ian McDonald’s near future India setting. It occurs in the year 2047, and at this time what we know as India has broken up into several regional states. Climate change has changed the world, and genetic engineering and advanced surgical practices are changing the people. This setting is a rich tapestry of ancient beliefs and future tech. The real focus of the story is Artificial Intelligences (AIs) or in the book “aeais.” It also explores what constitutes the nature of ones gods. It is a complex and fascinating story, that will slowly pull you into its world.
The story is told from a variety of perspectives: scientists who study AI, a stand up comic, a gangster, a Krishna Cop and his wife, a person without gender (a Nute), a government official, media reporter, and a young girl who seems to have amazing powers. Each of their narratives weaves through the story, converging together slowly but surely. The other character in the story is the India of the future and of the past. I am glad that I e-read the story, and could look up unfamiliar terms electronically while reading. For those who don’t have this advantage, there is a glossary in the back of the book. In addition, there’s even a musical playlist provided by the author, in case one would want background music.
There is another work by the author set in the same setting, a collection of stories called “Cyberabad Days.” I’m putting it on my “to be read” list.