<b>A journey into India's future</b>Ian McDonald's faithful readership will be well rewarded with the publication of his new novel, <b>River of Gods</b>, which represents imaginative, extrapolative science fiction at its best. Already nominated for a Hugo Award, McDonald uses his latest work to transform the energy of today's Indian economy and explore such familiar themes as man's inhumanity to man and the limits of our imaginations.
Subtitled August 15, 2047 Happy Hundredth Birthday, India, <b>River of Gods</b> tells the stories of nine people whose actions will change the lives of the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the subcontinent. The novel begins with Shiv, a small-time gangster, dropping a woman's body into the River Ganges in Varanasi (the city of Shiva). She is the unnamed victim of an ovular egg-harvesting operation gone wrong (as well as a stand-in for the crowded streets and unending hunger of India's vast cities), whose death is about to lose any meaning it might have had. By the time we return to Shiv's story and discover why the woman's death was meaningless, the reader has been given a quick tour of India 40 years from now, as well as a glimpse of the U.S. and even outer space.
In this near-future world, artificial intelligences (AIs) above a certain complexity have been declared illegal by United Nations decree. AIs are valued for their many uses, but above that level the U.S. government fears AIs will outstrip their makers and perhaps destroy humanity. Mr. Nandha is a Krishnacop whose job is to enforce this law using software of his own to incapacitate or destroy the rogue AIs.
The survival of these high-level AIs who can be seen as symbols for any discriminated group is at the heart of the book. But on a broader level, this is an action-packed meditation on the future from an exciting and fresh angle. Science fiction readers should be happy to follow McDonald down the river of his imagination. <i>Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.</i>