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“Cyberabad Days” by Ian McDonald

cyberabad days

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).

There is a good variety of stories. The Little Goddess follows the journey of a reluctant religious icon trying to deal with the reality of mid-21st Century India while The Djinn's Wife features a starcrossed romance between a woman and an AI. Elsewhere there are stories about the friendship between two boys, one American and one local, about a romance between two heirs to feuding families and the story of a teenage boy obsessed with the young soldiers who get to pilot military robots.

All the stories in the collection are good, I thought "The Little Goddess" and the poignant tragedy of "The Dust Assassin" were the best of them. 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. It does also feel like the ending of River of Gods was a more satisfying ending that the ending described in this story.

Overall, this is a welcome return to the world described in “River of Gods” and despite the final story being a bit disappointing it is a very good short story collection.

Rating : 8 / 10

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