River of Gods
By Ian McDonald

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4 Stars Fabulous!

First Published: 2004 
Pages: 575 

Review © 2009 by Stephen Roof
Genre:  Science Fiction, Cyberpunk




River of Gods by Ian McDonald is a fantastic read!  It requires more effort from the reader than most novels but is well worth the investment.  This is a sprawling epic set in the not too far off future of India.  If you can handle a substantial sprinkling of Indian vocabulary and a story weaving back and forth between multiple plot threads involving a large cast of characters, you won’t want to miss this book. 

River of Gods weaves a rich tapestry of Indian culture that was as interesting to me as the futuristic elements.  McDonald brings to life a futuristic India with gritty realism.  He has some wonderful descriptions of the landscape, cities, and people.  The plot contains a bit of everything including lots of action, politics, revolutionary war, mysteries, murders, sex, and romance. 

McDonald’s vision of the future includes advanced bio mods for humans, genetic tinkering, virtual simulations, and the emergence of advanced artificial intelligence.  The characters include scientists, gangsters, cops, journalists and more.  Somehow, McDonald manages to combine all this diversity into a meaningful and satisfying whole.  Reading this book totally immersed me in a radically different and exciting futuristic culture.  It was a fabulous experience.

To assist the reader, River of Gods contains a 6 page glossary of Indian words and slang used in the novel.  Many of the terms can be understood via context but there were a few times when the glossary came in handy. 

If you’ve been looking for a fantastic science fiction epic, look no further than River of Gods.  This is novel that no serious science fiction fan should miss.


P.S.  This review is based on the first hardcover British edition which had a disappointing amount of typos.  I assume they were corrected in later editions.