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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars River of Gods
River of Gods marks a return to form for Ian McDonald, after the dissapointing Ares Express. It's set in a near-future India, splintered into smaller states. The book takes awhile to get going as there are several protagonists and we are introduced to each in turn, as the plot starts up. This takes time, but is rewarding as we see a multi-faceted view of the society that...
Published on 19 July 2005 by johnfredcee

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stream of Demiurges (or Danger of Oxbow Lakes)
This is quite a tough book to review. There's much to admire here and it deserves to be a wholly successful piece. But it isn't. McDonald has an impressive imagination and he weaves a complex and convoluted narrative. However, the complexity is purely character-based. There are many main characters and many plot threads, some of which, although quite interesting in their...
Published on 23 April 2011 by sft


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars River of Gods, 19 July 2005
This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
River of Gods marks a return to form for Ian McDonald, after the dissapointing Ares Express. It's set in a near-future India, splintered into smaller states. The book takes awhile to get going as there are several protagonists and we are introduced to each in turn, as the plot starts up. This takes time, but is rewarding as we see a multi-faceted view of the society that Indida has become in the near future, and the changes to the human condition that have come with biotechnology and climate change.
The plot is layered and keeps us guessing to the very end. I can't discuss it much here whithout giving too much away, but it's as satisfying and twisty-turny with the same mythic ties as the original Desolation Road, only the mythos here is Indian, not African, and a great deal more interesting. There are occasional passages where he holds up a latter-day mirror to the current-day West, but it's done stubly and doesn't interfere with a read as tightly plotted as a thriller.
In short, a very rewarding read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars woo hoo, woo hoo hoo, 20 Aug 2004
This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
Three years after the so-so Ares Express, but it's been worth the wait. This is a big steam-roller of a book --you don't so much read it as experience it; it's a shock to the system in almost every way. There's so much going on it it's almost impossible to adequately describe --Mysterious Artefacts in space, artificial intelligences, a completely computer generated soap opera (it's only a question of time really)weater wars, political intrigue, third-sex 'nutes', genetically engineered 'Brahmins': this is wide-screen SF. More than that, it has the feel of John Brunner's classics: Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, --it's a lived in future, not just a wam-bam story. And it's India! This is a world as alien as any you'll read in a wide-angle space-opera...
Great characters, who generate the story, rather than get pushed around by it, and a cosmic-scale denoument that is perfectly set up, but I for one didn't see coming.
Not the easiest book I ever read, but you come out of it with your head reeling and our world seems dull and pale by comparison.
Oh, and there's cricket too!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and expansive, dissapointing ending though...., 3 Nov 2004
By 
Damon Doyle "damonde" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
A roller coaster ride with superlative character development and prose that really paints a picture of the difference in culture between east/west and the rigid societal and religious issues in India. Also greatresearch went into this book as it is authentic in its intepretation of Indian culture. Great SF elements to the story, although feel some of the ideas have been copied from other books (but thats inevitable....I liked this book alot and after spending most of the year reading mediocre old hash, this was refreshing. Good material for a film, maybe Bollywood can come up with something....BUT and its a rather large BUT.....after all the great writing, ideas and the pictures in your head he paints, the ending is something of a damp squib....should have been a bit more grandiose i feel to match the earlier parts of the book. Altogether though worth every penny and ill read it again....
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars River of Gods, 13 May 2005
By 
Bob simms (Rochester, Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
River of Gods takes you into an alien (at least alien to my western mind) world of India 50 years hence, with a mix of hi-tech gadgets and third-world slums, Hindu mythology and Bollywood artificial intelligences.
The book consists of the lives of several seemingly unconnected individuals all gradually colliding into a crescendo finish.
It takes a little effort to get into the story, especially as the book is littered with Indian terms mixed with future technology. The Glossary at the back was helpful, though even without it the general context of the phrases can be understood. But pretty soon I was hooked.
An excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stream of Demiurges (or Danger of Oxbow Lakes), 23 April 2011
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This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
This is quite a tough book to review. There's much to admire here and it deserves to be a wholly successful piece. But it isn't. McDonald has an impressive imagination and he weaves a complex and convoluted narrative. However, the complexity is purely character-based. There are many main characters and many plot threads, some of which, although quite interesting in their own right, are too obviously engineered to flesh out the story. The effect of this approach is that the minimal plot is made even thinner despite the scale of the work. This is more of a character study than anything else. Now there's nothing wrong with that: most fine literature is character-driven. And, in a genre that's constantly criticised for a lack of such depth, this is good to see. But RIVER OF GODS is something of a pretender. It teases the reader with the promise of a typically big SF story, and in the early stages of the book it appears it might deliver. But then comes the resolution, and it's a bit of a damp squib. My other reservation is that MacDonald's prose is often rather too florid. He tries too hard to impress and his language tends towards the profligate. On the whole though this is an impressive book and worth reading despite its flaws.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last.....!, 1 Oct 2009
By 
F. M. Muse "headspace traveller" (Leicester, Leics United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
This is the second book I've read of Ian McDonalds, the first being Brasyl, and as inventive and quirky as that was, this book is even better. For reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, the UK has IMO never produced a world-class sci-fi writer. With this book Ian McDonald changes all that, joining the ranks of Alfred Bester, Roger Zelazny, William Gibson et al. This is a work of vaulting imagination which draws on the issues, technologies and geopolitical fault lines of today to yield a work which is fresh, fast-paced, and has that textual and linguistic richness that has eluded pretty much all other UK (and European?) writers in this genre. One could argue that this book is stylistically indebted to William Gibson, yet it is none the worse for that and besides which, McDonald is entirely his own man, with a facility for transporting the reader to a strange, yet entirely believable Indian sub-continent, albeit a fractured one, at once colourful, dark, sexy and not a little troubling for those of a nervous disposition. I cannot reccomend this work too strongly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and well written, 16 Sep 2010
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This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
Complex and well written, with a clever interweaving series of first person narratives I enjoyed this and also purchased Brasyl and Cyberbad days. This is a story that builds momentum and has shocks and surprises as a selection of interesting characters try to thrive and survive in a very coherent future India, along the way they fall in love, make mistakes and behave in very human ways.

An author I will be looking out for in future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed But Worth Reading, 9 Jan 2008
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River of Gods (Paperback)
Once or twice a year I like to try out a recent science-fiction title people are buzzing about, just to get a sense of developments in the genre. The stellar reviews and near-future Indian setting of this book caught my attention, so I dove into the sprawling story. Featuring ten main characters who appear in alternating chapters over the course of almost 600 pages, it's a lot to absorb. Like a bountiful buffet of Indian food, it's really too much for the senses -- you end up with a plate piled with a plethora of delicious tastes, all competing with and sometimes negating each other.

The story is far too complex to summarize adequately, but here are a sampling of the elements: A strange alien artifact older than the solar system is discovered in an asteroid and an English AI researcher is brought to space to examine it. Meanwhile, her former mentor and lover hides out in India as various powerful entities try to track him down to tap his expertise. At the same time, an Indian "Krishna cop" goes about his duties locating and destroying rouge AI entities while his wife seeks romance with her gardener. Also at the same time, the benevolent founder of a large Indian energy company suddenly resigns, leaving his sons to run it. One of the sons is a standup comedian, the other a cunning business shark, leading to an unexpected power struggle. Then there's Shaheen Badoor Khan, the top advisor to a prominent politician, and his secret sexual attraction to "nutes" (gender neutral people created through painstaking -- and painful -- microsurgery). There is a new caste of genetically engineered "Brahmins," a popular TV show starring digital personalities, wars conducted via weather, black market AI, ethnic street battle, and much much more.

Some of this stuff is great, and some of it isn't. Particularly compelling are the strands of the story that deal with the attempts of various AI entities to avoid being wiped out by humans who are afraid of losing control of the world. This touches on politics, society, morality, and also makes for some pretty nifty action sequences. The Indian setting is great, clearly well-researched, and vividly described. However, like a great deal of science fiction, the book is just too sprawling and unwieldy for its own good. There are far too many major characters, and several of them have little to no bearing on the main story. It seems like the author fell in love with each of them to such an extent that he wanted to explore the lives of even the more peripheral ones in much more detail than was necessary. All of which has the effect of dragging the book to a halt at times. Cutting several main characters and about two-hundred pages would improve it a great deal.

It also has to be said that the manner in which all the various storylines are suddenly tied together is both abrupt and underwhelming. And yet, despite these various flaws, it is worth reading if you're into contemporary science fiction. Structural problems aside, McDonald has a pretty deft way with words, and his ability to paint an imaginative near-future scene is fairly impressive. All in all, it's good enough for me to take a look at his other books and possibly give him another whirl.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book - too short though, 10 July 2006
By 
da ding (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
Ok. After over a decade of reading I.M. books I've been completely amazed by this mans imagination, way with words (those adjectives, still can't believe it) and the staggering amount of research he puts into his prose.

At first I started with the fast and 'light' (heh) 'Terminal Cafe' (aka Necroville) and have read every book and short story I've been able to get my hands on ever since.

Mcdonald's India, as he portrays it, is surely tangible, true and believable, and the characters, again, come to life as before. However, it lacks the depth that developed over the years around Africa in the Chaga series. Hopefully later books will put some more 'meat' around the environment. I cannot, for the life of me, remember if i felt the same way about the first Chaga stories (it was a short story, oh no can't remember the name). And, as someone already pointed out, the ending was hurried; The story was moving along quite swimmingly but suddenly: the conclusion, although as satisfying and imaginative as ever. And Shiv, a central character with lots of hope for redemption, in the end has little or no bearing on the story at all. Deadline approaching a little too soon, maybe?

But anyway, a great read. Maybe not at par with 'Desolation Road' or 'Hearts, Hands and Voices', and definitely lacking the 'silent grandeur' of the Chaga/Africa environment, but better than 'Sacrifice of Fools'. And the writing style, which I always find completely immersing, is still there.

In the end, my favourite I.M. story is still 'Floating Dogs' in the 'Speaking in Tongues' short story collection.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic!, 10 Sep 2004
By 
Robert Frampton "Rob Frampton" (Dartford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River of Gods (Hardcover)
Ian McDonald has long promised to deliver a book like 'River of Gods', and now it's here it really has proved worth the wait!
It's rare that an author truly has the authorial chops to draw you into a wholly new world and make it feel utterly real, but McDonald does. Even with a dauntingly-large cast of characters, multiple plot-strands and the need to depict a near-future (but almost-alien) India, you know that the author is not going to lead you astray.
The back cover blurb is obviously hedging its bets and trying to get as many mainstream readers as possible but, make no mistake, this is 'hard' sf at its very finest: AI's, an alien 'visitor', a new human gender... Your average reader is going to find the concepts hard to take!
But hey! we true fans should rejoice that a writer as good as McDonald not only persists in writing sf, but works to stretch its boundaries with each new novel.
Buy now!
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River of Gods
River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Paperback - 9 July 2009)
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