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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

on 23 May 2017
Brilliant, huge, imaginative concept, but I didn't feel quite satisfied, which I have with others of his books. Possibly the concept was more than could adequately be communicated, and maybe the following books in the series will justify that. Haven't made up my mind whether to find out. But you might feel differently....
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on 9 February 2017
It just goes on and on about the wonder of Africa. It's a good story in many ways, with excellent characters and an engaging plot. But it just feels long in the reading. It could have been written in about 70% of the pages. It took me a long time to finish this book simply because I kept getting bored.
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on 28 July 2014
Good story of first contact, well written, absorbing and some interesting ideas...
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on 26 January 2014
Chaga is one of my favourite books and I'm really glad it's available as an ebook now - there's something great about reading sf where the focus isn't the future of America or Europe writ large and we get to see an African future.
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on 2 April 2011
Wonderful characterisation as usual, but the idea of biological packages being our first alien contact is a fascinating and unique one. His characters suffer, but it is the suffering of the real world, its politics and fear and violence. He always makes me think as well as giving me the escape of fantasy.
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on 16 May 2001
One of the most moving pieces of sci-fi I've read for a while- restored my faith in a genre that I thought I'd left for dead. McDonald's work is political, but with a rare subtlety: he's got a real grasp of global cultural conflict, and how it might be affected by some unusual, external event (what Iain M Banks might call an 'Outside Context Problem!). Stylisctically, McDonald has found the perfect balance between the overripe poetics of 'Hearts, Hands and Voices', and the over-slangy, occasionally derivative cyberbanter of 'Out on Blue Six'. He delivers generous, sympathetic characterisation, even to the UN bad-hats, but especially (and, for SF, unusually) to the female charcaters. Gaby McAslan is more than an off-the-peg feisty journalist, and Oksana, the Russian pilot, is as life-affirming a character as you'ld ever hope to meet. The Chaga itself is described with an old-fashioned sense-of-wonder often missing from more cynical near-future novels, and yet remains oddly plausible. At the same time, the prose easily scales back down to football matches and love affairs, the day-to-day life of humans amongst a wondrous event that has politicized their world. The sequel, Kiriniya, ties up loose ends and expands the scope of the story hugely, but hasn't quite the impact. Nonetheless, it's also recommended.
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on 30 July 1999
This is one of the most intelligent novels about alien contact I have read. Novels about 'the alien' can tend to be so mundane - the aliens are basically humans with a few changes, or easily recognisable as based on other earth species. McDonald avoids these pitfalls. His 'Chaga', named after the Kenyan tribe who first discover it, is a bizarre, self-replicating, absorbing, learning, mutating substance, being and process all at once. The UN (dominated ny the Americans) treat it like a threat, a disease to be stopped at all costs. This of course becomes another cover for racism against the Africans, but it is the Africans who realise that adpation is the key. By the end of the book this appears to bee shifting the world balance of power to Africa, a trend which continues in the equally wonderful sequel, Kirinya. McDonald's lush descriptive skill and eye for the cultural and natural landscape of Kenya form the base of this book, but his characterisation and plot structuring are equally impressive. Gaby, Faraway, Tembo, Shepherd, Oksana and many others are characters who breathe and demand your attention. The plot is tight, taut and packed with incident, humour, brutality, love - in short, all the things that make us human; nothing is out of place, nothing superfluous. Overall, one of the most human, hopeful and intelligent novels of the near future I have read.
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on 15 September 2001
My first book by Ian Mcdonald, which I picked up on with great anticipation, after reading one of his short stories in an anthology. The premise would have made a good short story or even novella, but has been expanded into far too long a novel. The author's furiously held political opinions permeate everything and make it all far too predictable. The parts about the Chaga (An alien environment forcibly imposed on the earth for the 'evolutionary benefit' of mankind) are excellent, though Mcdonald seems incapable of viewing this as an act of the grossest 'pseudo-colonialism' and speciesism (pity the rest of the life on earth), the rest is very variable in quality, and often frankly tedious. The choice of a female protagonist stretches Mcdonalds powers of characterisation past breaking point "These guys had a lot to learn about feminism" she thinks - oh p-lease.
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on 12 June 2016
all good
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