No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, April 30, 2005

#39: River of Gods -- Ian McDonald

OK, now I see what all the fuss is about.

I only finished reading this novel a couple of hours ago: it hasn't sunk in yet, so this 'review' will be a little disjointed. But I want to buy lots of copies and press them upon those of my friends who haven't already read it. This is science fiction at its best -- not to say that there are not other subgenres that I enjoy, but River of Gods is wide-screen, cast-of-thousands SF with joy and verve and excellent writing and an apparently endless wellspring of Plot. If it had just been Plot, I would've admired it immensely: but McDonald's cast of ten protagonists are so finely drawn, so multi-dimensional and uniquely damaged, that I wanted to weep for a couple of them. A lot of SF disappoints me because of its lack of that human dimension, or because of clunky writing. This novel did neither.

What's it about?

Incarnation and reincarnation: popular culture and the cult of Celebrity: artificial intelligence: gender issues: emergent evolution: pocket universes: gods and mortals: Balkanisation: survival on the streets: betrayal and abandonment: parents and children: escape.

And all the other things that are bubbling up in my head as I assimilate it.

I want to quote huge chunks of the prose, because it's so very clear and poetic and precise. Let me leave you with this:

Abandonment, that tastes like sick in the back of your throat, always on the edge of coming up; it feels like dizzy, like walking along the edge of a high stone harbour over a sea that glimmers and moves so far below you cannot be certain where it is, but brown, brown; abandonment is empty dull brown...
Incomprehension feels like a hair on the tongue.
And anger is heavy like a hammer but so light it can fly with its own wings, and the darkest, darkest rust.


reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

No comments:

Post a Comment