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A collection of eight stories, "Cyberabad Days" is a triumphant return to the India of 2047 (the India of River of Gods ); a new, muscular superpower in an age of artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, strange new genders, and genetically improved children. contents: 9 • America is Not the Only Planet (2009) essay by Paul McAuley 13 • Sanjeev and Robotwa A collection of eight stories, "Cyberabad Days" is a triumphant return to the India of 2047 (the India of River of Gods ); a new, muscular superpower in an age of artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, strange new genders, and genetically improved children. contents: 9 • America is Not the Only Planet (2009) essay by Paul McAuley 13 • Sanjeev and Robotwallah (2007) short story 31 • Kyle Meets the River (2006) novelette 51 • The Dust Assassin (2008) novelette 79 • An Eligible Boy (2008) novelette 109 • The Little Goddess (2005) novella 155 • The Djinn's Wife (2006) novelette 199 • Vishnu at the Cat Circus (2009) novella


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A collection of eight stories, "Cyberabad Days" is a triumphant return to the India of 2047 (the India of River of Gods ); a new, muscular superpower in an age of artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, strange new genders, and genetically improved children. contents: 9 • America is Not the Only Planet (2009) essay by Paul McAuley 13 • Sanjeev and Robotwa A collection of eight stories, "Cyberabad Days" is a triumphant return to the India of 2047 (the India of River of Gods ); a new, muscular superpower in an age of artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, strange new genders, and genetically improved children. contents: 9 • America is Not the Only Planet (2009) essay by Paul McAuley 13 • Sanjeev and Robotwallah (2007) short story 31 • Kyle Meets the River (2006) novelette 51 • The Dust Assassin (2008) novelette 79 • An Eligible Boy (2008) novelette 109 • The Little Goddess (2005) novella 155 • The Djinn's Wife (2006) novelette 199 • Vishnu at the Cat Circus (2009) novella

30 review for Cyberabad Days

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Would you like to visit 2047 and see the high-tech powerhouse that India could become? Ian McDonald’s Cyberabad Days will take you to the subcontinental future, from the hot, crowded streets of Varanasi to the cool mountain lakes of Kashmir, via a series of stories that are some of the best in Science Fiction. McDonald has already shown us that he can blend SF and developing world culture in scintillating ways with Brasyl and River of Gods and he does so again to tremendous effect here, deliveri Would you like to visit 2047 and see the high-tech powerhouse that India could become? Ian McDonald’s Cyberabad Days will take you to the subcontinental future, from the hot, crowded streets of Varanasi to the cool mountain lakes of Kashmir, via a series of stories that are some of the best in Science Fiction. McDonald has already shown us that he can blend SF and developing world culture in scintillating ways with Brasyl and River of Gods and he does so again to tremendous effect here, delivering futuristic short stories and novellas with an Indian flavor as pungent and memorable as the spice markets of Old Delhi. Like its predecessor, Cyberabad Days is a seething ants-nest of SF concepts, vibrant color and subcontinental perspectives. McDonald's India of 2047 has fractured into numerous competing states, New Delhi having finally lost control of its myriad peoples and cultures. Military assault drones patrol borders and cut down insurgents with flechette launchers and nano-edged blades. Varanasi, capital of the new state of Bharat, is the epicentre of an industry producing dangerously high-level artificial intelligences, some of which are the cast of India's best-rating daytime soap. Krishna cops, armed with both physical and virtual weaponry, hunt rogue AIs, enforcing international anti-AI pacts pushed by a faraway conservative US government. Meanwhile, underlying all of this, decades of sex-selective abortion has reduced the number of women in India to a destabilizing twenty percent of the population, upending centuries of marriage traditions and leading some to abandon the mating-race altogether, voluntarily becoming a strange, sexless third gender. Amongst this chaos ordinary and not-so-ordinary people are working, looking for love, fighting against the encroachment of technology into every aspect of existence and trying to find their place in life. McDonald explores the lives of both the powerful and the weak, from a pizza stall boy to the girl-child embodiment of a Hindu God to a genetically enhanced 'Brahmin' whose lifespan will be measured in centuries. Each story is consistently engrossing, inventive and thought provoking- exactly what I want from my SF. As with any story collection there are works that shine brighter than others, but on the whole Cyberabad Days is top quality stuff. McDonald is a master of genuinely exciting SF and his nano-edge sharp writing skills constantly delighted me. I traveled to the subcontinent earlier this year and McDonald took me right back to the crowds of Delhi and the mountains of the Himalaya, but with the addition of sundry layers of futuristic SF awesomeness and thought-provoking questions of technology, humanity and culture. What more could you ask of a book than it not only entertain you, but also transport you to faraway physical, temporal and intellectual places? 4.5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    F

    Read over a few months

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    ...Cyberabad Days is not a light read. McDonald introduces a lot of technological concepts and deals with complex social issues. The setting will also not be familiar to many readers and McDonald stuffs is as many non English words, social, cultural and religious peculiarities and science fictional concepts as he can get away with. All of this put into relatively short works of fiction poses something of a challenge to the reader. It also makes Cyberabad Days an intense and immersive read. I tho ...Cyberabad Days is not a light read. McDonald introduces a lot of technological concepts and deals with complex social issues. The setting will also not be familiar to many readers and McDonald stuffs is as many non English words, social, cultural and religious peculiarities and science fictional concepts as he can get away with. All of this put into relatively short works of fiction poses something of a challenge to the reader. It also makes Cyberabad Days an intense and immersive read. I thought the picture of India McDonald paints fascinating. The manner in which McDonald connects India's history and culture with futuristic technology is fascinating. It is as colourful and dramatic as the fictional soap opera Town and Country that is mentioned in just about every story, something McDonald's exuberant prose only reinforces. Although the city itself isn't important in the stories, the reference to Hyderabad, one of India's information technology centres, in the title of the collection is well chosen. The development of technology is of course highly speculative but the author does cover many of the challenges India, divided or not, will face in the coming decades. Not a light read, but definitely a rewarding one. If you haven't read River of Gods before tackling Cyberabad Days, you definitely will pick it up after finishing it. Full Random Comments review

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) As I've mentioned here several times before, there are many of us science-fiction fans who believe that the industry has entered a whole new "age" in the last ten years, one major enough to be compared to the four eras that came before it (to be specific, the historic "Golden Age" of the 1930s and '4 (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) As I've mentioned here several times before, there are many of us science-fiction fans who believe that the industry has entered a whole new "age" in the last ten years, one major enough to be compared to the four eras that came before it (to be specific, the historic "Golden Age" of the 1930s and '40s; the Modernist-influenced "Silver Age" of the '50s and '60s; the countercultural "New Age" of the '60s and '70s; and the angsty, postmodern "Dark Age" of the '80s and '90s); I myself have mostly been calling this new post-9/11 period the "Accelerated Age" (after the Charles Stross novel) and also sometimes the "Diamond Age" (after the Neal Stephenson one), although of course the fan community as a whole hasn't yet collectively agreed on a term, and probably won't until the age itself is over. And in the best historical tradition, this age is mostly defined in opposition to the period that came right before it; unlike the Dark Age, for example, Accelerated-Age tales tend to be overly optimistic about the future, many times bypassing our current political messes altogether to instead picture how our society might work hundreds or even thousands of years from now, with a whole series of scientific conceits that tend to pop up in book after book, thus defining it as a unified "age" to begin with -- sentient computers; the effortless mixing of the biological and mechanical (otherwise known as the Singularity); a "post-scarcity" society where food is artificially created and money no longer exists; practical immortality through a combination of inexpensive cloning and "brain backups" to infinitely powerful hard drives; and a lot more. And also like the eras that came before it, the Accelerated Age is mostly being defined through a loose handful of authors who all seem to sorta know each other, or at the very least always seem to be mentioned together in conversations on the topic -- people like the aforementioned Stross and Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, Justina Robson, John Scalzi, Robert J Sawyer, Jeff Vandermeer and more (although to be fair, Mr. Vandermeer has criticized me publicly in the past for lumping all these people together, which I suppose marks the main difference between him as an actual practitioner and me as simply a fan); but out of all these post-9/11 SF authors, it seems sometimes that the one who gets the most consistent amount of praise of them all is Ian McDonald, an Englishman by birth who's lived most of his life in Northern Ireland, part of the much ballyhooed "British Invasion" of the early 2000s which is yet another big calling-card of the Accelerated Age. And this is ironic, because the majority of McDonald's work does not fit the typical Accelerated-Age mold whatsoever; in fact, what McDonald is mostly known for among fans is being the so-called "heir to cyberpunk," the subgenre from the '80s that mostly defined the Dark Age before him. And that's because McDonald is a master of taking day-after-tomorrow concepts and marrying them to the dirty, sweaty here-and-now, which is exactly what such classic cyberpunk authors as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling did in the '80s to become famous in the first place, itself a rebellious response to the shiny, clean visions of such Silver-Age authors as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov; but unlike this first wave of cyberpunk authors, McDonald does this uniting not among the smoky back alleys of America and western Europe, but rather in the trash-filled slums of such emerging regions as Africa and South America (see for example my review last year of his latest novel, Brasyl), delivering an entire series of third-world fever-dreams that could've never even been imagined by the trenchcoated fans of '80s science-fiction. And it's all this that finally leads us to what's arguably McDonald's most famous book, River of Gods, originally published in the UK in 2004 and then a few years later in the US by our friends over at Pyr, considered by a whole lot of people to be the single best SF novel on the planet in the last ten years; and I'm happy to report that I just finished the book myself, after recently receiving the brand-new related book of short stories Cyberabad Days, and essentially begging the good folks at Pyr* for a copy of the original so that I could catch up, an incredibly slow yet pleasurable reading experience that took me six weeks altogether, hampered in my case by first having a bad bicycle accident right after starting, then being on a whole series of powerful narcotics the rest of the time, which one could argue made the reading experience even better than normal, but unfortunately also dropped my concentration level to nearly zero, which is why it took me so freaking long to get through these two books in the first place. Whew! And after finishing it myself, I have to confess that the hype is mostly warranted; if this isn't maybe the single best SF novel of the entire Accelerated Age so far, it's at least in the top five, an infinitely rewarding experience that made me almost immediately want to start all over again on page one after initially finishing. And a big part of this, frankly, is just in its setting alone; because for those who don't know, this is one of the first English-language books in SF history to be set in India, a part of the world that in just the last few years has suddenly become a red-hot topic among an ever-growing amount of Americans and Europeans. And that's because we're in the middle of watching one of the most fascinating moments in that region's entire history, the moment when the population of India is pulling itself kicking and screaming out of third-world status and into the first world; and yes, I know, this is an inherently insulting term to even begin with, a classification dreamt up by rich white males in the middle of the Industrial Age mostly as a way to differentiate themselves from non-whites, which of course is part of what makes it so fascinating, to see whether terms like these are even applicable anymore in this multicultural age of ours. You see, for Westerners who don't know, India in the 21st century is a giant mass of contradictions, a big reason why it's suddenly becoming of such interest to so many in the West in the first place: it's the world's largest secular democracy, for example, yet with a sizable minority (and growing every day) who believes the country should instead be run under a Hindu-based theocracy, much like how the Muslim nations around them are fundamentally based on Islamic law; it's been a politically unified whole since 1947 now, yet for thousands of years before that was actually a series of constantly warring mini-kingdoms, part of what allowed the British to so easily take over the entire region in the 1700s; and speaking of which, it's a country with infinitely complicated thoughts about its past as a British colony, proud of its Victorian heritage and widespread knowledge of English, even while rightly ashamed of the various indignities it suffered under the so-called "Raj" of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's a nation which desperately wishes to be the next great international hub for education and technology, yet a nation where tens of millions still go without electricity, without indoor plumbing; a nation virtually ruled by its explosively growing middle class, yet experiencing all the same bourgeois-based problems as the British did two centuries ago when its own middle class first exploded, a nation where Jane Austen storylines are literally played out in real life every day. McDonald perfectly understands the drama inherent in such a situation, and puts all these issues to great use in River of Gods, although be warned from the start that you Westerners will need to do a bit of homework to fully appreciate it; as mentioned, for example, you will need to know a little about the longstanding conflict there between Hindus and Muslims (and a little about the Hindu religion in the first place), a little about India's ancient caste system, a little about its former history as a series of warring mini-states, a little about the growing gap between traditional Indian life (think housewives in saris and cows roaming the streets) and modern Indian life (think two-earner families in business suits and clutching iPhones). And that's because this is a major theme of River of Gods as well, the growing divide between old third-world India and the gleaming first-world vision it wants to become, with the entire novel set in the year 2047, the 100th anniversary of the area becoming a unified independent nation in the first place. Ah, but see, there's trouble in paradise in McDonald's world, which is why it's so important to have a basic understanding of all these cultural issues; just to mention one important example, in River of Gods India isn't even a unified country anymore by 2047, after global warming led to a period of severe drought there in the early 21st century, leading to a breakdown into regional states again and a series of bloody civil-war skirmishes over the dwindling water supply. We then mostly follow the fate of one of these states -- "Bharat," comprising the northeast corner of the former nation, with the religious mecca of Varanasi its new capital...or "Varanasi 2.0" if you will, a head-spinning mix of the ancient and the cutting-edge, with thousand-year-old ghats along the Ganges River now sitting in the shadows of mountainside skyscrapers and maglev trains. The actual storyline of River of Gods is best left as secret as possible, which is why I'm going to largely skip over it today; but I will say that in the best cyberpunk tradition, it's actually made up of a half-dozen smaller storylines that each stand on their own, almost impossible at first to determine how they fit together until getting closer and closer to the end, and as the lives of the hundred or so major and minor characters on display start interweaving more and more. And I can also mention that the story here is a dense-enough one and laden with enough local issues and terms to make one think that McDonald must be an expat who has spent a substantial amount of time in India himself (and don't forget, by the way, that there's a glossary of terms at the end of the book); and this is in fact one of the other things McDonald is known for, because the fact of the matter (as he has confirmed many times in past interviews) is that the vast majority of his books' details come merely from page-based academic research, along with just a minimum amount of actual traveling through the region in question, almost all of it simply tourist-based traveling instead of pseudo-native backpacker-style. How he manages to turn in novel after novel of such depth using only traditional book-based research is a mystery that sometimes borders on the magical; and it's precisely this that makes McDonald so intensely loved by certain types of literary fans out there, and is precisely one of the reasons so many consider River of Gods the best SF novel written in the last decade. And then as far as this book's companion piece, Cyberabad Days, the main reason I was sent the pair of volumes in the first place, it's pretty much what you expect -- a collection of standalone short stories all set in the same world as River of Gods, that McDonald has written for various magazines over the last five years, published together here as a whole for the very first time, with all the traditional good and bad things that come with such minor story collections. Surprisingly, though, instead of needing to first read River of Gods for this companion volume to make sense (as is usually the case in these situations), Cyberabad Days actually exists as a great primer to get yourself ready for the bigger main novel; because also in good cyberpunk tradition, in River of Gods McDonald simply drops you right in the middle of things at first, not bothering to explain any of the details of the situation itself but instead letting the reader slowly pick them up here and there over the first 200 pages of that 600-page tome, something that diehard SF fans love but that can drive others a little batty. That of course is one of the biggest benefits of the short-story format in general, is that authors are simply forced to explain things in a much shorter period of time; for those of you who like getting your backstory out of the way quickly, you may actually benefit from tackling the companion book first before even trying the main novel in question. I have to admit, out of all the books I could've gotten stuck with during a long convalescence from a major accident, I could've done a lot worse than these two; and now after taking my sweet time with them both, I can very easily see why people continue to go so nuts over McDonald's vision of a future India, even half a decade after he first started laying this vision out. It's one of the great pleasures of being a science-fiction book critic in the early 2000s, in my opinion -- a chance to be reading and reviewing this literature right when it's first being written and published, that is -- and after taking in now a pretty fair amount of ultra-contemporary SF, I have to confess that I too have become a pretty slavish fanboy of McDonald. If you're looking for stories that elevate themselves above the usual tropes of the genre, you can't really go wrong by picking up this groundbreaking saga; here's hoping that McDonald has lots more of them in store for us down the road. *And by the way, all kidding aside, I do want to thank the hardworking PR staff at Pyr once again for all their help; over the last year I've probably requested at least a dozen old backtitles from their catalog, and in every case they've sent them along with a smile and nary a complaint, not to mention of course all the new titles they're actively seeking publicity for, a huge difference in attitude from some other SF publishers who shall remain nameless. It's a common trait among a lot of publishing companies these days, to treat litbloggers like sh-t, so I always appreciate it when coming across companies like Pyr who take bloggers as seriously as any other book reviewers out there.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    McDonald paints a fantastically rich picture of a fractured, near future India mired in political upheaval, with a generally bleak backdrop of poverty, resource exhaustion, environmental devastation, terrorism and war. The stories however are not generally tales of woe and desperation, but rather of the emergence of new, immersive technologies and their disruptive and transformative effects. Several follow children or young adults, essentially coming of age tales, paralleling their journey into McDonald paints a fantastically rich picture of a fractured, near future India mired in political upheaval, with a generally bleak backdrop of poverty, resource exhaustion, environmental devastation, terrorism and war. The stories however are not generally tales of woe and desperation, but rather of the emergence of new, immersive technologies and their disruptive and transformative effects. Several follow children or young adults, essentially coming of age tales, paralleling their journey into maturity with India's journey into new political and cultural realities. It's the fascinating juxtaposition of these emerging technologies - AI, augmented and virtual reality, genetic engineering and nanotechnology - with traditional Indian society and cultures that make these stories so compelling. Sanjeev and Robotwallah 4/5 Kyle Meets the River 5/5 The Dust Assassin 3/5 An Eligible Boy 3/5 The Little Goddess 4/5 The Djinn's Wife 4/5 Vishnu at the Cat Circus 5/5

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    In his two full-length novels, Brasyl and River of Gods, Ian McDonald has sculpted universes so amazingly rich and detailed that readers couldn't help being caught up in these tales of worlds on the cusp of new evolutionary leaps and societal upheaval. For days after finishing both of his prior books I would awaken from dreams set in the far-flung locale of a future India on the eve of its Centenary or the porous membranes between variant realities in the Rio of tomorrow. It was with great antic In his two full-length novels, Brasyl and River of Gods, Ian McDonald has sculpted universes so amazingly rich and detailed that readers couldn't help being caught up in these tales of worlds on the cusp of new evolutionary leaps and societal upheaval. For days after finishing both of his prior books I would awaken from dreams set in the far-flung locale of a future India on the eve of its Centenary or the porous membranes between variant realities in the Rio of tomorrow. It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to Cyberabad Days, McDonald's collection of stories set in the future-shocked universe of his renowned River of Gods. Possible River of Gods spoilers below... I was not to be disappointed. Set during and after the fragmenting of India into disparate states that formed the climactic crux of its parent book, Cyberabad Days both further fleshes out this vision of an India of tomorrow and answers some of the lingering questions I had after finishing River of Gods. The tales included range from the anime-ready yarn of a battle mech loving chai wallah who falls in with some child soldiers remotely controlling the large mechs to the ethical (and practical) dilemmas raised when an aeai (AI) soap opera star falls head-over-heels in love with a classically trained dancer (Adjustment Bureau this is not) to the closing story, "Vishnu at the Cat Circus", an imaginative epic of a world on the cusp of a true cognitive singularity that could be ripped from some Ramayana of the future. Individually the stories are of varying levels of quality and would make little sense to readers unfamiliar with the source material, and there are minor grammatical and spelling errors that make me think this was rushed to print in the wake of River of Gods success. Still, in this collected form nearly all offer an entertaining return to one of the most imaginative universes I have yet to encounter. This brief tasting tray of scifi done right has only whet my appetite for McDonald's next long player. Highly recommended for fans of dystopian futures and wonderfully rendered worlds.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hicks

    Master craftsman at work. This is every bit as good as the magnificent River of Gods. Like Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, this book takes you to India and lifts you right out of where you are. Like them, it's written so seamlessly that the author never gets in your way. You're watching through a perfectly clean window. But McDonald's India has robot soldiers and servants, wearable links to AIs, etc. right alongside the saddhus and ragged beggars and social rul Master craftsman at work. This is every bit as good as the magnificent River of Gods. Like Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, this book takes you to India and lifts you right out of where you are. Like them, it's written so seamlessly that the author never gets in your way. You're watching through a perfectly clean window. But McDonald's India has robot soldiers and servants, wearable links to AIs, etc. right alongside the saddhus and ragged beggars and social rules of today's India. The things that happen are, once you read about them, inevitable consequences of what McDonald has laid out before us. Most are quite sad, as in the other books I cited, but somehow we walk away with some optimism for the sheer vibrance of it all. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    India of 2047 is fractured into a dozen states, some in conflict with the others with water rights or their differing recognition of the legality of artificial intelligence, and trying to cope with how new technology is altering things. Genetically engineered children, remote piloted robot warriors, artificially intelligent soap opera characters (and the artificially intelligent actors who portray them) and more can be seen shaping the world in big ways and small, affecting the lives of individu India of 2047 is fractured into a dozen states, some in conflict with the others with water rights or their differing recognition of the legality of artificial intelligence, and trying to cope with how new technology is altering things. Genetically engineered children, remote piloted robot warriors, artificially intelligent soap opera characters (and the artificially intelligent actors who portray them) and more can be seen shaping the world in big ways and small, affecting the lives of individuals and the world. This is a sort-of-sequel to River of Gods, in that it takes place in the same universe and (mostly) after the novel, but it doesn't really follow any of the key characters and more explores the development as a world. It's also not a novel, but a collection of short stories, which has the same pattern as other short story collections: for any individual reader, likely some will land and some won't, and they won't be the same from reader to reader. My favorites were, "An Eligible Boy," "The Little Goddess," and "The Djinn's Wife." It was interesting to revisit this world, and once again to read a SF story focused extensively on a country and culture different from the ones I know best through my life and media. I'll give the collection as a whole three stars, probably closer to 3.5 but as as it's not quite there and Goodreads still doesn't allow half-stars, I have to round down.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Tayles

    A fascinating collection of short stories from Ian McDonald, set in and around the India from his novel 'River of Gods'. Some stories tie in to the novel, others merely skirt around it, but all share the same vibrancy and rich detail, creating a bizarre mix of rustic mother India and hi-tech cyber-Bharat. My favourite of the stories is probably The Djinn's Wife, though An Eligible Boy and Sanjeev and the Robotwallah are both close contenders. I think it's because of how nice the slice of life pi A fascinating collection of short stories from Ian McDonald, set in and around the India from his novel 'River of Gods'. Some stories tie in to the novel, others merely skirt around it, but all share the same vibrancy and rich detail, creating a bizarre mix of rustic mother India and hi-tech cyber-Bharat. My favourite of the stories is probably The Djinn's Wife, though An Eligible Boy and Sanjeev and the Robotwallah are both close contenders. I think it's because of how nice the slice of life pieces are in a world such as this - the world building is so rich (and having read River of Gods just a few weeks ago it's very fresh in my mind) and textured, that you do want to learn about how the everyday people survive in this place. The Djinn's Wife is sad and beautiful and in places horrifying - I gaped and held my hand to my mouth on the train in front of many bemused Japanese salarymen when I came to the conclusion of the story. As a woman especially it appeals to me, because I understand the choices Esha makes, even if I wouldn't neccessarily make them myself. An Elligle Boy is just sweet. It's the story of a young man trying to woo a wife in the world of future India, where men outnumber women four to one, and a man has to try his best to marry well. It's the story of his best friend, who offers him the means to win a woman's heart. And it's a story of quiet betrayal, a little bitter but ultimately resulting in a happy ending. Sanjeev and the Robotwallah is the first story in the book and I like the way it follows Sanjeev's fixation with the developing robots of India. His admiration for their - actually rather sad and quietly tragic - teenage pilots is a great take on hero worship, and in a way he gets to live his dream for just a bit. The other stories - Kyle Meets the River (a sweet and desperate story of an American boy and his friendship with a local boy as he experiences India), The Dust Assassin (a chilling tale of a young girl whose family is locked in a feud with a rival family, which ultimately controls her life in ways far beyond her imaginings), The Little Goddess (a fascinating story of a process that sees a young girl in Nepal heralded as the personification of Kumari, and how it affects her long after her fall from godhood) and Vishnu at the Cat Circus (the most closely linked to River of Gods, the story of a Brahmin child through his artificially extended life, and a chilling vision of the possible future of merging AI with mankind) - are also examples of what makes McDonald's writing so absorbing. A lot of what appeals about McDonald's writing is the subtleness of all the emotions - subtle tragedy, subtle humour, subtle horror, subtle warmth. It's nice to not have the emotions of the story be thrown in your face, yet still so apparent. I'm looking forward to checking out more of his writing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    As in Robert Heinlein's justly-famed opening to The Door into Summer, "The door dilated," Ian McDonald packs a megaton of worldbuilding into a one-word package, with the appearance of the neologism "robotwallah" in the title of the lead story of this collection. But that's the kind of thing that McDonald is good at... solid future worldbuilding, evoked with pyrotechnic prose but centered on characters with emotional depth and resonance. He even handles with grace the quixotic task of taking on th As in Robert Heinlein's justly-famed opening to The Door into Summer, "The door dilated," Ian McDonald packs a megaton of worldbuilding into a one-word package, with the appearance of the neologism "robotwallah" in the title of the lead story of this collection. But that's the kind of thing that McDonald is good at... solid future worldbuilding, evoked with pyrotechnic prose but centered on characters with emotional depth and resonance. He even handles with grace the quixotic task of taking on the fragmented societies of the 21st-Century Indian subcontinent (the very name "India" apparently being a Western imposition) as a Western author, writing to Western readers. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the portrayal, but I can attest to its verisimilitude. What McDonald shows us of the future is implicitly believable. Which is, I must admit, something of a problem for me, in that what McDonald is showing us here is, at least by implication, the collapse of the American project (as it were; as it was). For the most part, the US is entirely irrelevant to the people in this book. This is an impression made explicit in the introductory essay by Paul J. McAuley, evocatively entitled "America Is Not the Only Planet," and only somewhat belied by how seriously McDonald's characters take the US-inspired "Hamilton Acts" that restrict (or, rather, try to restrict) the spread and power of human-equivalent artificial intelligences. The stories collected in this volume run the gamut from hopeful to devastating, and the people from poor to super-rich. The unifying technology of virtual reality (the "lighthoek"—a brilliant name, subtly reinforcing by its very strangeness to American ears that the future no longer belongs to the US) runs through all of these tales, but it's not the focus. The focus of these tales is, as it should be, primarily on how young Indians (whether they're from aeai-friendly Bharat, or water-rich but female-poor Awadh) handle their lives in the 21st Century... a century in which great scientific strides have been made (Awadh, for example, has four men for every woman, due to the ability to determine gender in vivo), but in which the same old tired human conflicts appear over and over again, inevitably. That McDonald can turn this relatively bleak assessment of our future chances as a species into a vivid and exciting collection of tales is to his credit. This is a strong collection from a writer at the top of his game, and well worth attention.

  11. 4 out of 5

    sil

    These short stories do a lot to flesh out the universe first introduced in River of Gods. McDonald's near future India boasts one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, and nine million gods - encompassing both the Hindu pantheon and teeming clouds of post-humans and aieis. I'd already read "Sanjeev and Robotwallah" in what seems like every sci-fi collection published in the last couple of years, and had enjoyed getting a small second taste of what was going on in India of 2 These short stories do a lot to flesh out the universe first introduced in River of Gods. McDonald's near future India boasts one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, and nine million gods - encompassing both the Hindu pantheon and teeming clouds of post-humans and aieis. I'd already read "Sanjeev and Robotwallah" in what seems like every sci-fi collection published in the last couple of years, and had enjoyed getting a small second taste of what was going on in India of 2047, so this collection was a wonderful opportunity to delve more deeply into McDonald's complex worldbuilding. The only story that I didn't really enjoy was the novella. I had trouble connecting with the protagonist, especially when he decided to become a saddhu. This would have been fine if the estrangement was a studied decision on McDonald's part, made to underscore the difference between unmodified humans and the genetically fine-tuned Brahmin, but I'm certain it wasn't. In fact, I was disappointed that Vishnu did not seem terribly alien to me, or alien at all. The reason that I could not connect with some of his desires and actions was not that his point of view was so different from my own; it was that the character didn't feel fleshed out enough. Perhaps it was because, unlike the other stories in this collection, "Vishnu and the Cat Circus" needed to be a full length novel. [Also, the developments in "Vishnu" left me longing to see what it would be like if McDonald went further into the future, and posthuman hijinks ensued. But that's just me.:]

  12. 5 out of 5

    William

    I thought Ian McDonald's "River of Gods" was a superb SF novel when I read it a few years ago so I was curious to see whether this collection of short stories set in the same mid-21st Century India setting would be as good. I would say McDonald's writing is just as good at it is in his recent novels and he has a great ability to pack in a lot of excellent world-building and characterisation into a relatively small number of words. His vision of an India caught between tradition and advanced techn I thought Ian McDonald's "River of Gods" was a superb SF novel when I read it a few years ago so I was curious to see whether this collection of short stories set in the same mid-21st Century India setting would be as good. I would say McDonald's writing is just as good at it is in his recent novels and he has a great ability to pack in a lot of excellent world-building and characterisation into a relatively small number of words. His vision of an India caught between tradition and advanced technology (particularly in the field of Artificial Intelligence) continues to be fascinating, and it seems largely convincing to me (although I'm curious whether someone who was Indian would agree with that). All the stories in the collection are good, I thought "The Little Goddess" and the poignant tragedy of "The Dust Assassin" were particularly good. The last story in the collection, "Vishnu At The Cat Circus", is the most interesting and ambitious of the stories and functions as a sequel to "River of Gods". However, I don't think that final story was entirely successful because it's maybe a bit too short to properly explore the effects of the century of technological change it is covering, and the cat circus framing story didn't seem to add much to the story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is a collection of short stories set in the same brilliantly realised future India as River of Gods. I'd already read "The Little Goddess", "The Djinn's Wife" and "Sanjeev and Robotwallah" in other collections and loved them, although I felt the third was weaker than the other two. My favourite of the stories was "Vishnu and the Cat Circus", which provides an excellent timeline for the other stories and for River of Gods, as well as providing a lot of background information, including a lot This is a collection of short stories set in the same brilliantly realised future India as River of Gods. I'd already read "The Little Goddess", "The Djinn's Wife" and "Sanjeev and Robotwallah" in other collections and loved them, although I felt the third was weaker than the other two. My favourite of the stories was "Vishnu and the Cat Circus", which provides an excellent timeline for the other stories and for River of Gods, as well as providing a lot of background information, including a lot more on the genetically engineered Brahmins (of whom the protagonist is one). A word of warning though - it does contain spoilers so read River of Gods first. Otherwise, this is a great collection. Fans of River of Gods will love it, and if anyone reads this who hasn't read River of Gods already, this will hopefully inspire them to get a copy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    A collection of stories set in Mcdonald’s future India, which he used for his excellent novel River of Gods. These stories are told with the realpolitik science fiction of John Brunner, the magical realist tone of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the widescreen imagination of Iain M. Banks. The fairy tales “Dust Assassin” and “Little Goddess” and the dark novella (original to the collection) “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” are the main prizes here. Some of the short pieces are sketches (though the world i A collection of stories set in Mcdonald’s future India, which he used for his excellent novel River of Gods. These stories are told with the realpolitik science fiction of John Brunner, the magical realist tone of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the widescreen imagination of Iain M. Banks. The fairy tales “Dust Assassin” and “Little Goddess” and the dark novella (original to the collection) “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” are the main prizes here. Some of the short pieces are sketches (though the world is always fascinating) and I never quite warmed to the “Djnn’s Wife”(though it seems worth a reread). This is a must have for fans of River of Gods, or people intrigued by it but not quite wanting to take the full plunge, and for fans of McDonald and the authors I mentioned.

  15. 4 out of 5

    William Cunningham

    A follow up to the excellent novel River of Gods, you don't have to have read that to read this. This is a collection of short stories set in the same imagined future India, but it really works on a much higher level than that. The stories are all different. All about different characters from different strata of society. They are not related, each story stands alone. But read together in this order they convey a meta-narrative of acceleration that is surprisingly thrilling and feels, when you'v A follow up to the excellent novel River of Gods, you don't have to have read that to read this. This is a collection of short stories set in the same imagined future India, but it really works on a much higher level than that. The stories are all different. All about different characters from different strata of society. They are not related, each story stands alone. But read together in this order they convey a meta-narrative of acceleration that is surprisingly thrilling and feels, when you've finished it, like you've devoured another whole novel. It also contains the story "The Little Goddess" which is worth the price of the book all by itself.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    If you liked Ian McDonald's River of Gods, you'll love this collection of short stories set in his cyberpunk, near-future India universe. I liked this better than the novel-- the writing in each short was tight and incredibly focused, exploring everything from war to social castes to life after humanity's singularity. I can't praise this anthology enough, it's the best sci-fi I've read in some time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Graham Crawford

    a mixed bag - some very good stories, a couple very badly written. Alas, the last tale, (and the only one directly related to the characters in ""River of Gods""), is one of the weakest stories in the book. The action seems like it was quickly tacked onto a separate narrative - perhaps pushed on the book by the publishers looking to justify the term ""sequel"". This is in no way a sequel. It is a collection of stories set in the same universe as "River of Gods"

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ralph Palm

    McDonald is amazing as always. He seamlessly blends the little 'eyekicks' required of the genre without tedious exposition or sacrificing his elegant and unaffected prose style. Most authors, even good ones, can score at best two out of three. McDonald hits the trifecta, over and over again. My only recommendation would be to read RIVER OF GODS first, then this one, then all the rest you can get your hands on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Cyberabad Days is a good collection of short stories set in the same future India as River of Gods. The last story in particular follows some of the events of the novel and even goes beyond them. In fact, I'd say it surpasses it. While that does make for a strong and awesome short story, it sort of cheapen the value of the novel a bit.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jude Adamson

    Incredible book. The last three stories especially are masterpieces. I may have to read River of Gods again now. What a ride.

  21. 4 out of 5

    George Otte

    I loved The River God, which shares the same world (India, a century after independence), but these stories are somehow even more satisfying, perhaps because the separate stories allow a more variegated exploration of this richly imagined future than one story, however long, can make. And the India of this imagined future, with its different castes, ethnicities, religions, and gender choices (McDonald posits a third sex, and also the complications of adults inhabiting the bodies of children), al I loved The River God, which shares the same world (India, a century after independence), but these stories are somehow even more satisfying, perhaps because the separate stories allow a more variegated exploration of this richly imagined future than one story, however long, can make. And the India of this imagined future, with its different castes, ethnicities, religions, and gender choices (McDonald posits a third sex, and also the complications of adults inhabiting the bodies of children), allow for so much diffusion of possibilities. Plus, McDonald tells a good yarn. Most of these stories turn on some new wonder of artificial intelligence or genetic engineering, almost always reflected and refracted through India's mythic past, especially the Hindu pantheon of gods. His ideal form may be neither the short story nor the novel but the in-between form of the novelette or novella. The best pieces in Cyberabad Days are the long ones: "The Little Goddess" (Hugo-nominated), "The Djinn's Wife" (which won the Hugo), and “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” (the longest but also the ending piece, and oh, what an ending).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Been a few years since I read River of Gods but I found it quite easy to get back into MacDonalds 2047 India again. This short story collection continues to explore the issues and themes from the novel but in the shorter format I don’t think he manages to expand upon them or delve into anything new. What it does do however is seems to dwell upon the clash between new and old a bit more, and see the effect these changes have upon traditional lifestyles and the poorer people of India. The final st Been a few years since I read River of Gods but I found it quite easy to get back into MacDonalds 2047 India again. This short story collection continues to explore the issues and themes from the novel but in the shorter format I don’t think he manages to expand upon them or delve into anything new. What it does do however is seems to dwell upon the clash between new and old a bit more, and see the effect these changes have upon traditional lifestyles and the poorer people of India. The final story is more of a novelette that begins before River of Gods and continues after it finishes and goes to some really interesting places. The ending however felt a little rushed and I think I would love to have seen this expanded into a more substantial sequel. Still, overall this was a lot of fun and I very much enjoyed returning to the world.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tanvir Muntasim

    A great example of bringing together complex strands of technology and sociology, Ian does a fantastic job of delving deep into the psyche of Indian Sub-continent and astutely extrapolating how India might look like a few decades from now. He addresses all the cultural and economic trappings peculiar to this region, including, but not limited to- foeticide (and its alarming implications), religious bigotry, class system and the clash between the rigid culture and ever evoloving technology. It mi A great example of bringing together complex strands of technology and sociology, Ian does a fantastic job of delving deep into the psyche of Indian Sub-continent and astutely extrapolating how India might look like a few decades from now. He addresses all the cultural and economic trappings peculiar to this region, including, but not limited to- foeticide (and its alarming implications), religious bigotry, class system and the clash between the rigid culture and ever evoloving technology. It might be too dense for people not having experience in this region, but for us, it's a novel treat to see ourselves through the lens of a Scottish Irish science fiction writer. Highly recommended for those who like their science fiction with a healthy dosage of cultural commentary.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Hillman

    Taking a deeper dive into the future India of River of God, Cyberabad Days include seven stories that add even more impressive world-building to an already impressively realised setting. Want to know more about the Water Wars? Nutes? Brahmin? The smash hit soap opera Town and Country? How love and marriage works in a nation with four times as many men as women and a plethora of increasingly advanced AI? It's all here. And all stories are done in between 20 and 100 pages so you can read in short Taking a deeper dive into the future India of River of God, Cyberabad Days include seven stories that add even more impressive world-building to an already impressively realised setting. Want to know more about the Water Wars? Nutes? Brahmin? The smash hit soap opera Town and Country? How love and marriage works in a nation with four times as many men as women and a plethora of increasingly advanced AI? It's all here. And all stories are done in between 20 and 100 pages so you can read in short bursts and not have to commit to such an epic undertaking. Read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Baronne Samedi

    These stories are set in a future Indian society split into various states, in war. The large amount of exotic words (for a non-Indian dialects speaker) and some novlang make reading more disorienting than the sci-fi aspects. First stories lack of inventive sci-fi but the book was issued in 2009 and in our fast-pacing society, a lot of changes have already happened over the past years. It gets better further on.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob Beck

    Absolutely astonishing. I came away from each chapter feeling like I had walked along the ghats of the Ganges of a future India, amongst the ash and diya lamps and litter - I just don’t know how Ian MacDonald does it. I was bothered about the fact that Cyberbad Days was a collection of short stories, and had put off reading it. I shouldn’t have and neither should you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Philip Baumbach

    This is a collection of short stories set in India of the future. The stories share the same technology but little else. I was expecting one continuous story. It was ok. I am surprised it has been given such a high rating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Johan

    much better than River of Gods! There are much more nuances and depths and lyrics to the stories than in River of Gods. If you've read any of the Luna series you can also see the seeds that germinated in the author's mind that led to Luna.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Walter Underwood

    This is a bit more than a collection of stories. The stories illuminate different parts and aspects of a longer history. Do NOT read this before River of Gods, because it has huge spoilers for that work. And you really should read River of Gods.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leo

    Abandoned this one. Overloaded with details none cares about. Does not hook interest/attention.

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