Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
I was reminded, while reading Desolation Road, of two authors in particular: John Crowley and Gene Wolfe. This is not to say that I think Ian McDonald was in any way aping them or merely writing some kind of amalgamated pastiche, but there were elements to his tale that made both author’s names spring to mind. I think the first one was Wolfe, largely because of the way in which McDonald made the magical seem almost commonplace (or was it that the commonplace was made to seem magical?) in a way that reminded me of the inversions of the various aspects of the world in both Wolfe’s NEW SUN and LONG SUN series, not to mention the presence of time-travelling Green Men, technological angels and various other oddities. It is almost as though Read More
Ian McDonald(1960- )
Ian McDonald writes mostly science fiction novels, including Brasyl, River of Gods, Cyberabad Days, Desolation Road, Out on Blue Six, Chaga, and Kirinya. He has won the Philip K. Dick Award, the BSFA Award, and a Hugo Award, and has been nominated for the Nebula Award and a Quill Book Award, and has several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Here’s Ian McDonald’s blog.
Desolation Road — (1988) Publisher: Nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. It all began 30 years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality from Adam Black’s Wonderful Travelling Chataqua and Educational Stravaganza (complete with its very own captive angel) to the Astounding Tatterdemalion Air Bazaar. It’s inhabitants ranged from Dr. Alimantando, the town’s founder and resident genius, to the Babooshka, a barren grandmother who just wants her own child grown in a fruit jar; from Rajendra Das, mechanical hobo who has a mystical way with machines to the Gallacelli brothers, identical triplets who fell in love with and married the same woman.
Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
Began in 2011. Young Adult. Publisher: There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one of billions of parallel earths. When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse — the Infundibulum — the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, and the might of ten planets — some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth — at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking. To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his Dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness. Can they rescue Everett’s father and get the Infundibulum to safety? The game is afoot!
Planesrunner by Ian McDonald
I’m a pretty big fan of Ian McDonald, so when I learned that a brand new novel by the author was on the way, I got suitably excited. Then, when I found out that the new novel would be the start of a series, and that this series would deal with alternate dimensions and multiverse-type ideas (very different from his last few books), I got really excited. And then, when I discovered that the series would be a young adult series — well, it took me a while to come down from that one.
So, here it is: Planesrunner, book one in Ian McDonald’s brand new EVERNESS series, which — based on this first novel — I hope will be a very long series of YA science fiction novels. Boy, this book was fun.
One night in London, fourteen-year-old Everett Singh is witness to his father’s kidnapping. The man disappears without ... Read More
Planesrunner by Ian McDonald
Everett Singh sees his father kidnapped and forced into a big black car in the middle of London. Everett even gets photos with his cell phone, but the police don’t believe him. He gives them the memory chip from his phone so they can study the photos, and when the chip is returned, the photos have been altered. Plainly the police are in on what whatever happened, and it seems to be tied to the computer file that Everett got from his father a few hours after the kidnapping, a file that is for him only.
This is how Planesrunner, the first book in Ian McDonald’s EVERNESS series, starts off. Everett’s dad is a quantum physicist, probably a brilliant one, but Everett’s understanding of quantum physics surpasses his father’s. Everett can easily think in multiple dimensions. The file, which his father named the Infundibulum, is a list of all the discovered alternate universes, all 1080 of ... Read More
Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald
Be My Enemy is Ian McDonald’s second book in his alternate-universe EVERNESS series. In this book, our hero Everett Singh confronts his most powerful enemy, himself.
At the end of Planesrunner, Everett’s father was transported into a random universe by the Known Worlds villain Charlotte Villiers. Villiers used a weapon she called a jumpgun. Everett managed to grab the jumpgun, and has used it and the map of universes on his computer tablet to send the airship Everness to another universe as well. Now, he struggles to convert the code that will make the jumpgun and his tablet play nicely together, so that he can jump the Everness to his earth to rescue his mother and baby sister, and then pursue the quest to find his missing father.
There are ten Known Worlds with portal, or gate, technology, and our earth is E10. Be My Enemy op... Read More
King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald
I knew, just by reading the back cover blurb, that King of Morning, Queen of Day was right up my alley. Women with mystical powers? Check. Faeries? Check. Ireland? Check. In fact, I think the only reason I didn't discover this book earlier is that it was published in 1991, and I only started reading fantasy sometime in the late nineties.
The story begins with Emily, a bratty but endearing girl of fifteen, poised on the edge of adulthood in the early 20th century. Emily knows she is special — set apart — and when she sees the faeries in the wood by her family's home, she knows she will never be satisfied with ordinary life. Emily makes a colossal mess of things, as bratty fifteen-year-olds will do, and sets in motion events that will affect generations to come.
What follows is a fairy tale, but not preci... Read More
River of Gods by Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald’s River of Gods is a complex, multi-threaded tale that takes place in near-future India which has been split into somewhat warring states. There is a water shortage as the monsoon hasn’t come in three years, a rigid caste system is in place, and political and economic strife is tearing cities apart at the seams. While the rich get richer and designer babies are common among the elite, there is a gross gender imbalance where men outnumber women by two thirds. It’s a complex, foreign, and unique world.
McDonald’s writing at times reminded me of a mixture of K.J. Parker’s dry, cynical humor and a dash of Peter F. Hamilton’s science fiction. McDonald is incredibly descriptive, and he seems to purposefully take a “no holds barred” stance with many of his scenes. He... Read More
Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
Cyberabad Days is a fully realized vision of a near-future India — indeed, of a near-future world in which India is a major player, even more so than today. Ian McDonald’s prose sparkles, the plots of the stories are uniformly tight, but it is the imagination, the picture of the future, that really works here. If you want that “sense of wonder” that science fiction is most famous for, this is the place to find it.
Cyberabad Days is set in the same universe as McDonald’s River of Gods, a highly praised novel that won the British Science Fiction Award in 2005, and received nominations for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. In the seven stories of Cyberabad Days, linked by setting and technology but not by characters, McDonald imagines a ... Read More
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Necdet, a troubled young man, is witness to what looks like a botched suicide bombing on a crowded city tram; afterwards, he starts seeing djinn and other supernatural creatures. Can, a nine year old boy with an amazing robotic toy — and a heart condition that confines him to a silent world — accidentally becomes involved in the intrigue. Ayse, a gallery owner, is contracted to find a mysterious and elusive relic, while her boyfriend Adnan, a successful trader, works on his own scheme to become rich. A retired Greek economist, Georgios, is recruited into a secret government think tank, and Leyla, a young social climber, tries to get involved with a promising nanotech startup.
These six narratives all take place in Istanbul, less than 20 years into the future. The city, historically a crossroads and now also the capital of the newest EU member nation, is where East meets West, old meets new, Ch... Read More
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Set in the near future, Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House explores the rise of nanotechnology — the next great technological revolution — in Istanbul. McDonald’s story has six protagonists whose stories are held together by the titular Dervish House, which is located in Adem Dede Square, a backstreet in the Queen of Cities.
A terrorist bombing on a public tram sets off McDonald’s plot. A woman has killed herself, but, unusually, there are no other casualties. Instead, one survivor, Necdet, discovers that he is suddenly able to see djinn. Leyla misses her job interview because of the suicide bomber, but her family sets her up with a nanotech startup. Retired professor of economics Georgios Ferentinou’s terror market is up 20 points, and the government calls to offer him a job with a new think tank. The bombing does not greatly affect the markets... Read More
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume One edited by Jonathan Strahan
My first and foremost complaint — and this is really a quibble more than anything else — is that the title doesn't tell you what year this anthology belongs to. Which isn't really a problem if you bought it recently but in case you find in the bookstore bin several years down the line, it's nice to know what era this collection represents (in case you don't know the answer, the book was printed in 2007). With that out of the way, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume One is a good collection that draws from both the fantasy and science fiction genres, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel.
Personally, however, because I read a large number of anthologies in 2007, I’ve seen many of these stories before because they’ve been reprinted in numerous anthologies. That's not a bad thing per se -... Read More
Masked edited by Lou Anders
Superheroes — and supervillains — have always been problematic. They are usually all but impossible to kill, but have a single vulnerability that everyone seems to know about, and to aim for, a tradition that goes all the way back to Achilles (who was invulnerable because he was dipped in the River Styx as a baby — except for the ankle by which his mother held him when doing the dipping). Even after death, they always seem to come back in some form or another; Superman, for instance, has been resurrected quite a few times (though losing him led nearly 20 years ago to one of the best graphic novels ever written, World Without a Superman). Because they are so superhumanly strong, they sometimes appear ludicrous, fighting off impossible task after incredible burden after outrageous situation. No wonder authors have sometimes taken their creations in odd directions, as Read More
Chaga — (1995-2000) Publisher: It began in the year 2002 with strange activities on one of Saturn’s moons. Then came the meteor strike on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, followed by an alien infestation by a strange vegetative life-form known locally as the Chaga. For Gaby McAslan and her SkyNet news team, this is the story of a lifetime — and a golden chance at fame. As the Dark Continent becomes a frenzied backdrop of apocalyptic anticipation, Gaby fights to be the first to get to the truth behind the Chaga, only to come up against a wall of official secrecy. Suddenly rumors are spreading as fast as the Chaga: of people disappearing into the alien growth or being herded by U.N. troops into restricted “research” camps. Soon it becomes clear that the real story is bigger than Gaby could every imagine — a story that must be told even if it means betraying the man she loves. Is the Chaga an invasion or a gift? Does it mean destruction or evolution? Does it spell the final chapter for humanity… or just the beginning of the most amazing story of all?
Out on Blue Six — (1989) Publisher: It’s hundreds on years in the future and the world is perfect. Total fulfillment and happiness are the official goals of the Compassionate Society, and any citizens who find themselves less than delighted are guilty of PainCrime.
The Broken Land — (1992) Publisher: In the distant future, the peace between two rival religions in a tranquil, self-sufficient city is shattered by revelations that rebel soldiers are hiding in the confines of the city.
Kling Klang Klatch — (1992) With David Lyttleton. Publisher: At 5:00 a.m. on the greasy streets of a city that never sleeps, the dolls are on the hard stuff and the transport’s about to strike again. On the news it’s all bombs and killing machines the size of tenement blocks. The only consolation for a weary middle-aged cop on his way home is a little illegal sugar and some sweet tenor sax. But that was before they found the body that looked like somebody had unzipped it then scooped out all its insides. And the three words scrawled on an alley wall. Three red words, so fresh they were still dripping. KLING KLANG KLATCH. It’s enough to knock out anyone’s stuffing. And in Toyland, that’s no joke. KLING KLANG KLATCH is set in a superficially glittering world that, if not exactly human, reflects humanity’s desires, corruption, and racism at a fundamental level. Ian McDonald’s (Desolation Road) blackly bizarre wit and David Lyttleton’s (Punch) razor-sharp eye for detail have created a unique fantasy with a delicious streak of dark humor.
Necroville — (1994) Publisher: It’s November the second, 2063 — the Day of the Dead. Down in Necroville, the dead are planning to party — and everyone’s invited. For in the 21st century, nanotechnology has revolutionized the laws of birth, death and entropy. The resurrected dead account for almost one third of the world population — and the backbone of its workforce. They have their own culture, their own mores — and their own ghettos, the Necrovilles. And tonight is their night. Down into Necroville go five young people in fulfilment of a pact, each one knowing, or unknowing, in search of something. As their paths entwine, and they find themselves drawn ever deeper into the mysteries of the post-lifestyle, each one will find him or herself irrevocably changed.
Terminal Café — (1994) Publisher: It is a few decades after a revolutionary technology has given humans the ability to resurrect the dead. The ever-increasing population of the risen dead is segregated into areas called necrovilles. Here they have created a wild culture, untouched by the restrictions of the law — except that the dead cannot stray into the realm of the living, nor the living into the teeming necrovilles, after nightfall. It is November 1, the Day of the Dead. Virtual artist Santiago Columbar, creator of drugs and ‘ware that melt and reconfigure reality for his many disciples, has grown bored with the realities at his command. There is one reality he has yet to try, the culmination of his life as an artist: He will venture into the forbidden streets of the Saint John dead town, and there walk willingly into the open arms of death. At Santiago’s invitation, four of his friends will meet in Saint John to record his death and resurrection. On their way to witness Santiago’s transformation, as the necroville erupts into the first volley of a revolution against the living, each will face danger and adventure in the wild streets of the dead… and find that life has changed forever.
Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone — (1994) Publisher: The creator of computer-generated images that have the power to heal, erase memories, bring ecstasy, and kill savagely, graphic arts student Ethan Ring must brave treacherous terrain to escape those who would use his invention for evil.
Sacrifice of Fools — (1996) Publisher: When a prominent Shian family is brutally murdered, human and alien cultures find themselves on a collision course, with only Andy Gillespie, ex-con and aspirant to the mysteries of the Shian law, standing between them.
Brasyl — (2007) Publisher: Think Bladerunner in the tropics… Be seduced, amazed, and shocked by one of the world’s greatest and strangest nations. Past, present, and future Brazil, with all its color, passion, and shifting realities, come together in a novel that is part SF, part history, part mystery, and entirely enthralling. Three separate stories follow three main characters: Edson is a self-made talent impressario one step up from the slums in a near future São Paulo of astonishing riches and poverty. A chance encounter draws Edson into the dangerous world of illegal quantum computing, but where can you run in a total surveillance society where every move, face, and centavo is constantly tracked? Marcelina is an ambitious Rio TV producer looking for that big reality TV hit to make her name. When her hot idea leads her on the track of a disgraced World Cup soccer goalkeeper, she becomes enmeshed in an ancient conspiracy that threatens not just her life, but her very soul. Father Luis is a Jesuit missionary sent into the maelstrom of 18th-century Brazil to locate and punish a rogue priest who has strayed beyond the articles of his faith and set up a vast empire in the hinterland. In the company of a French geographer and spy, what he finds in the backwaters of the Amazon tries both his faith and the nature of reality itself to the breaking point. Three characters, three stories, three Brazils, all linked together across time, space, and reality in a hugely ambitious story that will challenge the way you think about everything.