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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars River of Gods Companion
The blurb on the back of Cyberabad days describes it as a sequel to the excellent River of Gods, so I was slightly taken aback to discover a selection of short stories. This soon changed as I became immersed, once again, in Ian McDonald's stunning India of the mid-21st century.
This is not so much a sequel as a companion piece to River of Gods which provides extra...
Published on 22 May 2009 by G. Crone

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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Un-convincing vision of India's future
I read Cyberabad Days after immensely enjoying Brasyl and finding this for a decent price second-hand, and was quite disappointed. My overall problem is believability in the pessimistic future McDonald presents, which can be broken down into several separate problems. The foremost of which, for me, was the treatment of women.

In "The Little Goddess", the...
Published on 6 Nov 2009 by A. D. MacFarlane


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars River of Gods Companion, 22 May 2009
By 
G. Crone "gacman" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
The blurb on the back of Cyberabad days describes it as a sequel to the excellent River of Gods, so I was slightly taken aback to discover a selection of short stories. This soon changed as I became immersed, once again, in Ian McDonald's stunning India of the mid-21st century.
This is not so much a sequel as a companion piece to River of Gods which provides extra background detail to many of the themes explored in Rver of Gods.
I would heartily recommend this read to anyone who enjoyed River of Gods,River of Gods or even as a prequel to set the scene for what is to come in the novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just wonderful, 30 Sep 2009
By 
J. S. Bower "Jon Bower" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
I am puzzled that some SF-loving folk just don't seem to get Ian McDonald. That's their loss.

River of Gods was an out-and-out masterpiece. As an adjunct to that, this series of splintered visions of future India is an essential purchase.

I have lived for many years in Asia, and McDonalds' research and depth of undestanding of this culture constantly amazes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant from beginning to end., 27 Oct 2011
By 
V. A. Millett "vinceabdulazeem" (Croydon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
Top quality cyberpunk that superbly captures the sights, sounds and smells of India and Nepal. I've been to some of the places where these stories are set and this book creates a stunningly believable future for these places. Like all good future science fiction, it's actually about now; this very week I've read news reports about nanobots and about the gender imbalance in India because of selective abortion of girls. The writer clearly has a finger on the pulse of developments in Sub Continental culture and technology. His characters are believable and very human. The book I'd read just before this one, The Devish House, was also from this author and I thought it was the best science fiction I'd encountered in years. This one is arguably better!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but can we have more???, 1 Aug 2010
This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
Excellent stories, I just wish they could have been filled out more, perhaps into a full book like River of Gods.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling vision of an exotic near future, 1 July 2010
By 
N. S. Woodhead "Kapn' Nemo" (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
A great collection of SF short stories, set in an exotic but very recognizable India, a few years hence. The technology is imaginative and well-thought out, the characters have an enchanted quality reminiscent of the 1001 Arabian Nights. Highly recommended. I hope to read much more by this writer in the future!
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5.0 out of 5 stars From Hyderabad to Cyberabad..., 12 April 2010
By 
D. S. McCormack (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
I enjoyed the short stories accumulated here some of which have also featured elsewhere such as in Gardner Dozois collections and assorted magazines. The tales each portray a different facet forming the edifice of McDonalds Cyber-India and come together to bring his world to life. The book arrives at an earth shattering culmination in the final, freshly written story 'Vishnu at the Cat Circus'. Cyberabad Days, supplement to River of Gods (you don't have to read RoG first), comes equipped with a variety of post-humans and advanced technologies which are delivered to the reader with a unique writing style - yes there are terms and phrases you wouldn't usually come across. However if you are after a unique sci-fi orientated view of a possible future india and all the wonders this entails then purchase now! If you are looking for a guide to India you are in the wrong place although do feel reassured that Ian McDonald has researched the culture of India and implemented this knowledge - along with a Sci-Fi geared imagination - into Cyberabad Days!

The technology is massively advanced and it is an UNlikely outcome for India [INSERT SPOILER of massive pillars of light breaking from the ground as humans become pure thought] but it's certainly an exciting one!

----
There are also some Japanese influences here; the kids in one story enjoy japanime and so forth.
Oh yes and there's a cyberpunk kid called Godspeed! after Godspeed You! Black Emperor (The film or the band; I don't mind which, a cool reference either way).
If you liked Cyberabad Days check out the short story 'The Tear'. It's amazing and you'll find it at the end of The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 22 (Mammoth Books)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Really Enjoyable, 20 Mar 2010
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
I read Brasyl and River of Gods, although I clearly preferred the second work. Cyberabad Days has a couple of bits that either fed or were derived from River of Gods. The linked short story theme worked very well. The tales were enjoyable and had a sort of magic to them. Even if the magic was grounded in technology. The book reminded me of O'Henry because the narrators felt like India's future underclass recounting some of the narrative. I think the language was internationalised to make it accessible.

Is it a credible vision of India's future? Possibly. The heated debate whether English should remain a national language show the divisions across a vast sub-continent. Southern states feel it gives them a voice which would be denied if one of the mainstream northern tongues were dominant. Escalate this into disputes over water rights and a vast dam project and Cyberabad Days may not be far from the truth.

I loved the concept of AIs becoming the soap stars who enthral a continent and whose virtual romances fuel celebrity gossip magazines. I delighted in the idea that the AI's were almost Djinns. But for me the protagonists felt human. Perhaps the Indianess or otherwise is a red herring. I think what counts is the excellent quality of the stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb collection, with a unique theme, 25 Nov 2009
By 
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
Superb collection of stories, set in the same future India as River of Gods: now a disintegrating, technological superpower, India is still struggling with its traditions, its over-population and its dependency on water in an increasingly dry world.

Sanjeev and Robotwallah

Young Sanjeev works hard for his father's pizza business, but what obsesses him are the robotwallahs who remotely pilot warrior droids, playing killing games for real. Sanjeev becomes their pizza boy and later graduates to their unpaid domestic wallah, much to his delight. But his adolescent dreams of reflected glory are shattered, as he learns how the adult world really works.

Kyle meets the river

Kyle lives in a gated foreign community, his father an American construction boss. His friend Salim is a Muslim who uses the latest in direct-brain interface gadgets to take Kyle secretly to a shared virtual game world they are building. A simple trip to the river Ganges with Salim washes away assumptions about traditional and modern values.

The dust assassin

A very traditional tale of two feuding families is given a modern twist. The Jodras and the Azads run competing water companies. The Jodra heir, Padmini, is told that she is a special weapon in this war, but has no idea how. One night the Azads attack and wipe out everyone at Jodra, except Padmini who escapes with the aid of a loyal neuter-gender retainer. Coached by the retainer and his accomplished neuter friends, Padmini re-enters society and then comes to the attention of Salim, heir to the Azads...

An eligible boy

Men outnumber women four to one, because of choice of sex for babies. Jasbir is one of a horde of very eligible bachelors, who compete with each other at arranged mass dating sessions (shadis). His friend Sujay (who works in IT and stays out of dating) suggests he uses a personal adviser AI, whose speciality is romance, having been created as a scriptwriter for 'Town and Country', the most popular soap opera. A fitting courtship ensues.

The little goddess

A girl is chosen to be a goddess, according to ancient tradition, However she breaks her vows and falls in with Ashok, an AI developer, and becomes a mule for him, smuggling illegal AIs in a protein chip in her head, Yet fate strikes again and she becomes a very modern kind of goddess.

The djinn's wife

A djinn is a spirit that can bewitch mortals. The story is told to us in the manner of a folk tale, as it is a modern day equivalent. Esha Rathore is a celebrity from the slums of Delhi, famous for her dancing. She falls in love with a dashing diplomat, A.J.Rao, who is a level 2.9 AI, human in all but body. Unfortunately, the Hamilton Acts are passed, forced by a reactionary USA, which outlaw high-level AIs. What then for the marriage?

Vishnu at the cat circus

By far the most far-ranging tale in the collection and the one to read as it sets all the others (and even the companion novel, River of Gods) in context. The narrator, Vishnu, is a Brahmin, who was been genetically engineered by his ambitious parents for both super-genius intelligence, and long-life combined with half-speed maturation. He tells of his very long youth, a meteoric rise, and then a swift descent to running a cat circus, as a family feud spills over into a world changing technological advance. Despite all the darkness in the story, it ends with a potential of rebirth, just like classical Indian stories. ( )
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Un-convincing vision of India's future, 6 Nov 2009
By 
A. D. MacFarlane (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cyberabad Days (Paperback)
I read Cyberabad Days after immensely enjoying Brasyl and finding this for a decent price second-hand, and was quite disappointed. My overall problem is believability in the pessimistic future McDonald presents, which can be broken down into several separate problems. The foremost of which, for me, was the treatment of women.

In "The Little Goddess", the woman is made a Goddess as a child, for seven years, then winds up in a place where she is waiting to be married. (Women are in great demand, as there are four times as many men after sex selection was made possible.) After fleeing her husband, she works for another man, smuggling AIs, until she winds up fleeing police with 5 AIs in her head and decides to set herself up as a roadside goddess, using the knowledge of these AIs to appear wise. Quick aside: I wanted this story to start there, not end.

In "An Eligible Boy", we see a scenario where men show up at dating agencies, hunting for brides. In "The Djinn's Wife", the main character was sold as a girl, trained to be a dancer, is now reasonably famous with an AI in love with her, and in a fit of jealousy at another woman's success announces that she and the AI are getting married. She eventually betrays him, as the relationship fails.

In "The Dust Assassin", a young woman is told repeatedly she's a weapon against a rival family business, and eventually the way in which she's a weapon is revealed: a romantic act that she has been manipulated into by other members of her family.

I can't remember now which one, but in a story there's a mention of the "small" number of career women.

There's kind a trend here. Women are steered, lives slotted into other people's, rather than driving their own plots. Women are wives, or are wanted/used in other ways. I'd like to read the Little Goddess' story after McDonald's story ends, because that's the act of most agency she showed and I want to know how she leads her life after it.

I am pretty sure that right now, there are women in India who direct their own lives. In forty years' time, I rather suspect (hope, at least) that even more women are in control of their careers, that women are more than pretty in-demand wives. I'm sure there will also be women who are not, but does McDonald really have to tell their stories above all others? There's a woman in "Vishnu at the Cat Circus" who had a career, yes; she also had cosmetic surgery and desperately wanted to birth the best babies. Where are the women who live outside the expectations or machinations of others? There is one, the main character's sister in that same story, but she is only a side character. She's killed off, too, because of her choices. It disappoints me that McDonald's future is so negative about women; I also don't believe it.

Another part of the future that I don't believe is the separation of India into smaller states. None of the stories offered an explanation why. There are metaphors in "Vishnu at the Cat Circus" that hint at internal divisions, perhaps driven by outside influences, but I wanted more explanation. Even more problematically, I wanted to see differences between the various states, to see convincing reasons why they are still separate. Two of the new states featured prominently in the stories and I couldn't tell them apart.

Neither was I particularly impressed with the AIs in the stories. They tended to act just like humans with petty desires and so on (although I suspect the Level 3 AIs would act differently, but they sadly lack page-time). There's an AI soap opera, for instance.

Two small syntax issues:
- McDonald has a tendency to drop commas when he's showing excitement or myriad sights/sensory impressions at once, a technique that is occasionally fun, but wears thin. Especially when every single viewpoint character does it. Variety in narrative voice is a good thing.
- Another little annoying thing he does with language is write `aeai' instead of `AI', which really started to grate after 200 pages. There are other alternate words, some of which I didn't mind; `gupshup' for `gossip' annoyed me, though. I guess this is very much a personal preference thing, but I wonder at the necessity, especially of `aeai'.

He also has a third gender, nutes, who are (with two exceptions) in traditionally feminine industries and tend to the faaabulous. The idea of a third gender really interests me -- Thailand's katoey, for instance -- and I wanted the complexity of this to be examined more. Instead they're mostly a cross between stereotypical gay men and old clichés about eunuchs. Decorative exotic flavour, not part of an interesting story.

Going back to the pessimism I mentioned at the beginning, I found myself overall doubting McDonald's vision of India's future. It's hard to explain exactly why, except for that pessimistic/critical tone just not ringing true. To be honest, I wanted to read a vision of India's future written by an Indian person, because I suspect they'd have a different -- and more nuanced, more true -- slant on their country. I could never quite shake the impression that I was reading stories by a white man, and that's not a complimentary comment in this context.

Which is why it annoys me that McDonald gets all this praise for being "visionary" and "revolutionary" by writing about non-Western futures. I'd rather read Zelazny's Lord of Light, and that's about a group of non-Indians pretending to be Hindu gods. At least it wears its problematic nature on its sleeve. It also treats the source material with intelligence. McDonald's writing is more subtly wrong: he writes about this exotic, faraway place with the level of detail that will enthrall and convince many readers, yet his extrapolations feel like harmful lies about India.

I'd also rather read books/stories by Nalo Hopkinson, Geoff Ryman, Nnedi Okorafor, Vandana Singh and Maureen McHugh, to name five writers whose work I've enjoyed, who write convincingly and thoughtfully about non-Western futures. They are hardly alone. McDonald is really not revolutionary at all.
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Cyberabad Days
Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald (Paperback - 8 Oct 2009)
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