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River of Gods

by Rob Friesel

Just wrapped up Ian McDonald’s River of Gods and have decided to go with the “highly recommended” rating on this one.

When you pick this up and hold the hard cover in your hands, its heft is a little intimidating. When you put it down 597 pages later, you’ll wonder how he managed to keep it so focused, how he kept it from wandering all over the place. Not that it doesn’t have a tremendous scope (borders on “epic” but I feel I must reserve that adjective for a space opera review) but McDonald keeps it moving at an aggressive pace. Every back alley detour and out-of-town foray is very deliberate and very much part of the storytelling.

I won’t go on at length about the Indian-post-cyberpunk-scifi-omg-wtf-how-awesome-is-that?-ness that you might have seen elsewhere. I’ll keep it at this: it was well-chosen, well-developed, and in the end made sense1.

While I wouldn’t say that it was totally new or ground-breaking fiction, McDonald moves this piece along efficiently and engages you with some well-developed characters. The “like an Indian Neuromancer” comparisons floating around out there are not far off. That being said, it’s a more mature, more sophisticated Neuromancer. The text wants for nothing and (I would say) achieves its goals quite well. McDonald’s treatment of “the Singularity” here is delivered in a palpable, sympathetic way: You invent your own doom.

If this novel is indicative of the quality of McDonald’s other work: I’m there.

  1. Which is to say that putting it in India Bharat didn’t feel like some cloying, waste-of-time, you’re-just-doing-this-to-be-cute gimmick []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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