Ian McDonald’s River of Gods has sat on the shelf for a couple of years, awaiting its turn as Book of the Moment. It’s too big for bathtub reading (nearly 600 pages) and too heavy to carry in my Wednesday evening bag (when I often read for an hour after a yoga class in Brunswick), but I’ve been reading the sequel Cyberabad Days lately, and when that’s done I expect I’ll take up River of Gods. Both are set in the India of 2047, so they’re speculative fiction, or maybe sci-fi. The world they inhabit is entirely believable, if one is into believing in future worlds: they are credible extrapolations from the present, alive with slang and bits of technology that just make sense even if they don’t really exist right now. And the Indian setting gives them a fascinating flavo[u]r of their own, easy to imagine that one understands kinda sorta, even if some of the details are a bit hazy –like, just what IS a djinn anyway? Are they imaginary beings, or might they just as well be seen as Real to those whose Imaginations are appropriately constructed? Here’s a bit to whet appetites:

Now there is a new race jostling for space in their city: the aeais [AIs, right?]. If the djinns are the creation of fire and men of clay, these are the creation of word. Fifty million of them swarm Delhi’s boulevards and chowks: routing traffic, trading shares, maintaining power and water, answering inquiries, telling fortunes, managing calendars and diaries, handling routine legal and medical matters, performing in soap operas, sifting the septillion pieces of information streaming through Delhi’s nervous system each second. the city is a great mantra. From routers and maintenance robots with little more than animal intelligence (each animal has intelligence enough: ask the eagle or the tiger) to the great Level 2.9s that are indistinguishable from a human being ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of the time: they are a young race, an energetic race, fresh to this world and enthusiastic, understanding little of their power… (pg 168)