Communicator (communicator) wrote,


I think about half the people on my f-list have read 'Air' by Geoff Ryman. I finished it last night, and I thought it was very fine indeed. It is is warm, humanist, inclusive and charming. It has a tough SF backbone which isn't insisted upon.

The eponymous 'Air' in this story is a pre-existing unified background field (possibly intended to be the Higgs Field). About fifteen years from now a technology has been developed which uses this field as a transmission mechanism for an almost Neuromancer-style virtual reality Internet, which just goes straight into your head without physically jacking in.

In the first few pages of the book this new technology is tested in the poor Central Asian country of Karzistan (= probably Kazakhstan) prior to its global launch. The story follows the experience of one woman (Mae) in a small village in Karzistan. She experiences a kind of accident during the test, which leaves her more or less permanently jacked in. As a result she suffers from certain mental problems and is also empowered to address various crises that arise, with mixed success.

Like 'The Crimson Petal and the White' this is the successful rendition of an underprivileged female life by a white middle class male writer. Mae isn't a 'man with boobs' or a chick, or a feminist martyr. Like what's-her-name in Crimson Petal she is tough, resourceful, spirited and rather trying. She's supposed to be almost my age too, which always gets a cheer from me.

I thought this book would be quite dull and worthy as it dutifully explicated the impact of technology on a village of colourful characters. Instead it has a good forward plot drive which kept me reading until the early hours of the morning the other day.

Recommended more or less to everyone.
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