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Cyberabad Days
Ian McDonald
Pyr, 330 pages

Cyberabad Days
Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald was born in 1960 in Manchester and moved to Northern Ireland in 1965. At present, he lives in Belfast with his wife, Patricia. His debut was the short story, The Island of the Dead, in the British magazine, Extro. His work has won the Philip K. Dick Award for best original SF paperback, the Locus poll for best first novel, and several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Brasyl
SF Site Review: Ares Express
SF Site Review: Sacrifice of Fools
SF Site Reading List: Ian McDonald

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

In Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald returns to the India of 2047, a land he first visited in 2006's River of Gods. In the mid-21st Century, India is a land of tradition, mixed cultures and advanced technologies. The country has balkanized, splitting up in to twelve different countries. The stories in Cyberabad Days are snapshots of the people and places that make up this new India, glimpses of a life where ancient philosophies mix with soap operas whose entire cast is made up artificial intelligences, and where a shortage of women and water is causing upheavals on every level of the society that makes up the political, social, and economic structure of India.

The collection starts off with "Sanjeev and Robotwalla," where the prospect of a robot war first brings excitement to the children of a village, and then changes their lives as the crops their village depends on weather and die. In "An Eligible Boy," we get a first-hand look at how ingrained prejudices and genetic engineering have produced a society where four times as many boys are being born as girls, and what that is doing to the lives of the young. That problem combines with the ever-increasing presence of artificial intelligences in "The Djinn's Wife," where a dancer and her life are taken over by an aeai who starts as a fan and eventually becomes much more. Finally, "Vishnu at the Cat Circus," the one story in the collection that has never appeared elsewhere, brings a genetically enhanced boy face to face with a post-human future where his abilities could become obsolete before he even grows in to them.

The portrayal of a future through the use of a series of linked short stories has a long history in science fiction. Clifford D. Simak's City set an early high standard for the form, and McDonald's Cyberabad Days lives right up to the standards set by Simak and other Grand Masters of the field. It's a way of showing a future society from many different viewpoints, and while a short story can't feature the depth of characterization and complications of plot that are found in a novel, a series of short stories can, and in the case of Cyberabad Days does, serve as a way of introducing the breadth of a fictional future and portray it from the viewpoint of numerous characters who might not fit into a novel's narrative structure.

Cyberabad Days works in exactly that way. For readers new to McDonald's portrayal of 2047 India, Cyberabad Days is an excellent introduction to the complexities and trials of life in that future land. For readers already familiar with River of Gods, Cyberabad Days is a welcome second, third, and more look at a country and its people where the past is quickly meeting the future in strange, new and wonderful ways.

Copyright © 2009 by Greg L. Johnson

In Cyberabad Days, reviewer Greg L. Johnson is reminded once again that the most fascinating cultures aren't necessarily found on exotic alien worlds, but can also exist right here on our own planet Earth. Greg's reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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