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Air (Gollancz S.F.) [Hardcover]

Geoff Ryman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 July 2005 Gollancz S.F.
This remarkable novel is about the effects of a new communications technology, Air, that works without power lines or machines. As pervasive technology ensures the rapid spread of pop culture and information access, few corners of the planet remain untouched. One of those few is Kizuldah, Karzistan, a tiny rice-farming village, predominantly Chinese Buddhist but with a strong Muslim presence, among whom sharply intelligent though illiterate Mae Chung, a self-styled fashion expert guiding the village women in dress, make-up and hairstyling, is an informal leader. When the UN decides to test the radical new technology Air, Mae is boiling laundry and chatting with elderly Mrs Tung. The massive surge of Air energy swamps them, and when the test is finished, Mrs Tung is dead, and Mae has absorbed her 90 years of memories. Rocked by the unexpected deaths and disorientation, the UN delays fully implementing Air, but Mae sees at once that her way of life is ending. Half-mad, struggling with information overload, the resentment of much of the village, and a complex family situation, she works fiercely to learn what she needs to ride the tiger of change.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (21 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575076976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575076976
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 16 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,357,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Ryman's novel is beautifully tragi-comic and filled with memorable characters. Rarer, it's a science fiction book that looks outside of Europe, North America and the cooler parts of Asia to remind us that the future will be lived by all humanity." (Jonathan Wright SFX )

"None of Geoff Ryman's books is quite like another. His richest and best so far, Air is also perhaps his most mature." (Roz Kaveney TIME OUT )

"Ryman weaves a simply engrossing tale of changing love, friendships and enmities. It's a terrific mix of backbiting, SF and even magic realism." (Anthony Brown STARBURST )

"This is a novel you really have to read." (VECTOR )

" 'Air' manages to be a serious mediation on the effects of technology in a Third World context without being patronising; it's a genial comic masterpiece with moments of real poigancy." (John O'Connell TIME OUT CRITICS CHOICE 2005 )

"An exquisite, beautiful, moving, and perfectly-judged fictional marvel. Ryman gets everything right in the novel. It is an unforgettable piece of fiction." (Adam Roberts INFINITY PLUS )

"Combining classic SF imagineering with Ryman's characteristically idiosyncratic take on magic realism." (NEW STATESMAN )

Book Description

Geoff Ryman's triumphant return to science fiction is a powerful, evocative story of information technology and world change --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, intelligent, gripping 15 Oct 2006
By Dr. P. J. A. Wicks VINE VOICE
If you're reading this, you already know about the power of the internet. Cast your mind back to before you had it. How did you sort out arguments about which film that actor on TV was in? Where did you get your books from? How did you know how much money was in your bank account? Where did you book your holidays? How on earth did you kill time at work?!?

Now imagine the next stage of the Internet: skipping the computer out altogether. Making the entire wealth of the internet accesible to your brain, for free, all the time.

This is exactly what happens to the last village in the world to go online, Kizuldah, a tiny hamlet in the nation of Karzistan. Imagine a world without telephones and running water suddenly being exposed to such a wealth of information, and you are in the world of Air.

The protagonist, Mae, is an illiterate peasant with lofty aspirations. She sells her services in the village as a "fashion expert", eking a living by making dresses and accompanying the wealthier women into town to get their nails done. Following the arrival of an internet-enabled TV in the village she rapidly figures out that with easy access to information, her services will become surplus to requirements, and so she begins an entrepenurial quest to stay ahead of everyone else. As she progresses in her understanding of the web, she also realises that it will effectively destroy the way of life in which her village has always lived. Then again, she is realistic enough to know that there never was a "golden time", that life was always hard and people always adapted.

This is a great book. The protagonist is astutely observed, the village a well-developed setting, and the sci-fi elements eminently plausible.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Believable, beautiful. 12 Oct 2009
By Book Critic VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was laree at the start - set in a fictional central Asian republic in the very near future - not my thing at all, but this is a marvellous work, believable in almost every respect. The characters live, the world is so real, I can still see/smell/taste it now, almost two weeks since I turned the last page.

The politics, national and local, felt very real. The story is compelling, blending of the mystic and quantum science against an all-too-familiar (to me) background of small-nation military-political posturing, the clash of modernity with traditional belief and religious morality all brought to life by a collection of brilliantly-drawn characters - there was almost nothing I disliked here, until the belly-baby.

The belly-baby was simply bizarre and... I kept waiting for it to make sense, feeling sure it must have some deeper metaphorical meaning but - either I'm missing something very fundamental or there was no meaning and it was a simple piece of grotesquery hurled in to the mix for the sake of it. This would have been a five star book without it - the story would have been immensely improved without it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, moving story, intelligent plot 9 Dec 2005
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I admit I love Geoff Ryman's work, even though you can never be quite sure what you're going to get with him. This is, I suppose, technically a straightforward science fiction novel in that the mechanism that moves the plot is a speculative expansion of Internet technologies into a sort of technologically created global telepathy. But Ryman's talent is in the way he locates the story in a wonderfully realised world - a distant Asian village - and makes us care about a flawed but fascinating central character, Chung Mae.
Tender, funny, scary, and enormously clever. I really can't recomment this novel highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern masterpiece 13 Sep 2010
By Sam Woodward TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Air is a parable for change. In 2020, it's the latest communications technology, which enables users to access the internet via their own minds. It's being tested by the UN in a simple peasant village in Karzistan, an under-developed country between Russia & China. The villagers are mistrustful of changes to their ancient lifestyle, their only web access being via the one communal television, which is only used for watching kung-fu movies & sporting events. But Mae is ahead of the curve; the village 'fashion consultant', she regularly travels to the nearest city to learn about the latest fashions & uses that info to sell dresses to her neighbours. But once everyone has access to fashion info, what use will she be? Thus she has to learn more about this new technology to find a way to use it for her advantage. But matters are complicated when the Air test goes wrong & she inherits her 90 year-old neighbours' memories, personality & mistrust of the modern world. It also becomes increasingly clear that even Air's inventors have seriously underestimated the implications of this new technology & the potentially massive impact it could have on the entire human race.

Air is predominantly marketed as a 'sci-fi' novel but as with all good books, it crosses many genres & is ultimately about what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world. Much of it concerns Mae contesting with her rival fashion experts in their muddy village like a low-budget Sex And The City with rice paddies & chickens, which as unglamorous as it sounds, Ryman's gregarious writing ensures is still fascinating.
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