Ian McDonald’s “River of Gods” was one of the best books I read in 2008. This one came as a bit of a surprise to me as it was one recommended to me by Amazon based on previous purchases and wasn’t sure how I’d take to “Bollywood Cyberpunk”. I’ve since learned that McDonald is a master of not just throwing you into the deep end of the pool, but drowning you in it. McDonald drowns so skillfully that you simply don’t want to surface for air, you just want to keep breathing the world. I’ve just finished his Brasyl and you come away feeling similarly drenched by the author.
The structure of the novel reminds me a lot of the classic Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner.
Stories thread around a large number of separate characters, briefly merging and spliting as the plot dictates. One of the main threads follows an AI cop who tracks down emergent intelligences before singularity events (the AI improving itself to godhood) can occur. Other threads explore India of the 2040’s where a thriving technology based economy butts up against millenias old culture. I’m not much of an India-phile myself, but McDonald’s style drew me in, immersing me in something totally alien from my own experience. I read perhaps a hundred or so books a year and it is rare for me to become so engrossed. River of Gods is a classic worthy of a readers time and something that will stay with you a long time after you put it down.