River of Gods

Ian McDonald
River of Gods Cover

River of Gods


There are a lot of things I like about River of Gods. McDonald uses the lenses of gender, religion, culture, AI and first contact to explore the idea of encountering the other. He plays out these encounters in person, virtually, in neighborhoods and through nations. There is a satisfying nuance to the clashes of assumption and worldview, without preaching or picking favorites. His analogy between Hindu mythology and AI reminds that humanity has been thinking about other ways of thinking and being for milennia.

In the end, though, I do not agree with the author's portrayal of human disconnection. The final twist was a jarring counterpoint to the brutal isolation experienced by the human characters. The bleak and lonely relationships in the book convey a view of human culture as a program to contain and control others. Maybe this is American of me, but I think the capacity of individual relationships to heal and bring change to culture is fundamental to being human.

Lots of funny parts, character-driven, thought-provoking ideas about the interface between technology and tradition. I would recommend it.