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