Fiction Reviews

Cyberabad Days

(2009) Ian Mcdonald, Gollancz, 12.99 / Aus$29.99, trd pbk, 313 pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08408-7

(2009) Ian Mcdonald, Pyr, US$15.98, trd pbk, 330 pp, ISBN 978-1-591-02699-0


India of 2047 is a bustling place, stepped in tradition and culture, prone to water shortages and poverty on one hand, and on the other with modern high technology, the wealthy and new resources to exploit. It is a rich and diverse place packed with colour and wonder. It is the world that Ian Mcdonald created for his 2004 novel River of Gods: for example it was nominated for a Hugo 'best novel' in 2005. Now Ian must have spent a lot of time and effort researching Indian culture for River of Gods and it is not surprising that he has used it since, not just because of economy of effort but because there is a wealth of potential to be had. And so Ian, in the intervening years, has written several short stories set in this future. These have been brought together in Cyberabad Days and what a fine collection it is, full of richly crafted tales set within an interpretation of an exotic East-sub-Asian culture with futuristic machinery and artificial intelligence, as well as future population-resource pressures (such as water wars), but with still the human drivers of family loyalty, wealth, politics and religion. Stunning stuff, jam-packed with scintillating SF reading that just cannot be hurried.

'Sanjeev the Robotwallah'. When two robots fight to destruction outside the village, there is an opportunity for one of the kids.

'Kyle meets the River'. Young Kyle comes from a wealthy family and lives a protected existence for there are real threats from high tech terrorists and even his parents' rivals. Then comes the time when he and a friend want to see life close up and real.

'The Dust Assassin'. A young girl from a powerful family grows up. Only many years later does she realise what she has been previously told that she really is a weapon.

'An Eligible Boy' Now this first appeared in Fast Forward 2 though there is no copyright credit. This tale concerns the high tech' future India where arranged marriages should be easier... Shouldn't they...? Assuming that is the technology has both partners' agendas in mind.

'The Little Goddess'. Though very young she remembers the day when the priests came to collect her and she became a goddess. But would she remain a minor deity?

'The Djinn's Wife'. There was one a girl who married a Djinn, an artificial intelligence, while the water wars raged...

'Vishnu at the Vat Circus'. The owner of performing cats tells his life story as a minor god, a genetically modified cyberwarrior. S/he could become...

And so there you have it. A wondrous future of joy and suffering, poverty and wealth, high-technology and religious superstition, all woven into a stunning backdrop: the future India of Mcdonald's imagination. Now, if you enjoyed your korma and dahl, you'll want something to round things off. Similarly Cyberabad Days is the prefect accompaniment to River of Gods.

Jonathan Cowie

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