River of Gods

Ian McDonald
River of Gods Cover

India: mere backdrop or additional complexity?



Ultimately, the story of this book could have taken place anywhere, and India mainly serves as a metaphor for the complexity of our planet and our species. It also makes for a colorful backdrop, and the Indian pantheon allows easy links with software avatars. All that doesn't take away the feeling I have that the reason McDonald chose India as the story's setting has more to do with the stereotypical images we Westerners tend to have of India: ever rising population numbers, lots of religions intersecting, an emerging technological powerhouse full of IT PhDs working for minimum wage, mad ascetic gurus, etc., etc.

The fact that McDonald also wrote a Brazilian and a Turkish book - both of which I'll willingly read somewhere in the future - makes me think the setting is more of a gimmick and a technique, and not a necessity internal to the story. That's not a fault per se, and an author's prerogative. McDonald shows both respect and has done heaps of research. But as a reader, I don't have the feeling that I learned a lot about India. My preconceptions were reinforced, that's about it.

Again, not a fault per se: it's impossible to get to know something as large as a nation through a book, and expecting that is questionable in itself.


Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig...