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McDonald has become well known for setting his stories outside of the traditional Euro-American context of most science fiction, and the effect is to lend an air of the exotic and strange to the near future he imagines. This novel, set in a balkanized India at the middle of the century, follows that pattern. Be warned that it starts slowly with a subplot that is somewhat removed from the main action, and it takes a long time to really get to the meat of the science fiction that drives the story. Like all McDonald novels it is very well written, with language that is often surprising in the way that good poetry can be, but it also flows languidly, just like the Ganges River from which it takes its title, taking its time to gather together the life streams of its many complicated characters. This is only sporadically a book of intense action and high excitement, but it is thought provoking and well crafted, with a nice twist at the end to resolve the major mystery at its heart. In the process it wrestles with big themes about the nature of intelligence and the meaning of life, drawing extensively from the cultural history of India and Hinduism in the process. Indeed, one of the major negatives about listening to this book rather than reading it is that you don’t have access to the excellent and informative Glossary included at the end. The narration is generally excellent, although Jonathan Keeble isn’t consistently good at American accents. All in all this is definitely worth a listen.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Definitely. It's rare to find a book about India, let alone a science fiction book. As an anthropology student of the subcontintent, I was pleased that McDonald just jumped into use of terms like bindi, crore, etc. without explanation (it wasn't until I hit the glossary at the end that I realized it even existed -- one of the few limitations of audio books).
What did you like best about this story?
The philosophy of self and the great portrayal of India.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I would have happily done so. I usually listen to books on my commute, but I found myself putting on my headphones at home whenever I could steal a few moments to listen.
Any additional comments?
I have a huge issue with readers (and directors!) who let pronunciation issues slip through. It seriously irked me that McDonald's phonetic shortening of "artificial intelligence" to aeai got pronounced as "ah-ay-ee". It's Ae-ai. Æ-I. A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Someone should have caught that and made a correction the first time it was uttered so strangely. It's like the director didn't even read the book.Keeble's performance was otherwise great -- doing distinct voices and accents for that many characters is more than admirable and I look forward to finding more books read by him.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This is a book that pulls in many aspects of India - the Hindu gods, the bureaucracy, the pace of life in the cities, technological research, cricket, the caste system and waiting for the monsoon - as a setting for an exciting near-future sci fi novel full of believable characters caught up in destiny and fighting to understand how we can come to terms with the evolution of computers and AIs.It is compulsive listening with amazing narration by Jonathan Keeble. A delicious length allowing the listener to get to know the characters and become drawn in to the multi stranded story. And if you like this one then try Ian McDonald's 'Brasyl' - another humdinger, this time set in Brasil.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Truly fantastic love India love S/F . This is our future. Ian McDonald modern genius.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful