Review: River of Gods by Ian McDonald

Rating:

River of Gods by Ian McDonald
2006, Pyr

Review Summary: It started out well but quickly devolved into a rotating series of chapters following an overly-large cast of characters, all of which were well-drawn, but none of which was individually very gripping. Taken altogether, the novel was actually kind of lame, with both too much and too little occurring over too many pages.

Full Review:

River of Gods would possibly be a decent future history if I knew absolutely anything about India’s current-day internal politics. Since I don’t, and since the author chooses not to elucidate, I have no way of determining how shocking these future events are. Overall, in fact, I know very little more about India than I did before. Considering the novel is 600 pages long, and there really wasn’t all that much science fiction in it, either, I’d say this was a bit of a waste.

There was a lot of sex and sexual situations, but I prefer more substance in my novels. It started out well, following a government agent hunting a rogue AI, but quickly devolved into a rotating series of chapters following an overly-large cast of characters, all of which were well-drawn, but none of which was individually very gripping. Taken altogether, the novel was actually kind of lame, with both too much and too little occurring over too many pages.

The only hint of gold in the novel was the assertion half-way through that an actual AI would probably not be anything like we’ve typically seen in fiction. Per the novel, an actual AI may be self-aware, but its intelligence would probably be deeply enmeshed in whatever system it developed in, and its interest and sphere of influence would likely barely overlap our world, if at all.

Of course not much was done about this theory, the humans still hunted down the AI’s amid their own typical warfare and scandals, the AI hunter ended up being cast as a bad guy, and the story ended rather fitfully in a flurry of abstract high-level physics. Not very satisfying at all.

04/24/07 CSL

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