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4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  830 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Williams evokes a future reminiscent of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, in which the promises of science and technology are fulfilled. In the far-distant future, only a specially adapted group of people--the Aristoi--can operate the ultra-advanced computer system that controls their vast interstellar empire.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 7th 1993 by Tor Books (first published 1992)
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Read this one recently on the strength of a friend's recommendation, and was rather glad I did; it's one of the more unusual SF novels I've had the pleasure of reading. Aristoi is set in the far future, when humanity has unlocked the ability to manipulate matter at the molecular level and has spread out into the stars. Those who have mastered the ability to reshape matter in physical and virtual reality alike are the Aristoi, the kindly absolute rulers of their various individual domains, and un ...more
It's rare that I read something different enough to be considered unique, but the society and culture painted in this book is something I've never encountered before.

The world building is truly stupendous. A distant future humanity, scarred by the accidental destruction of Earth, rebuilds a new civilization. One of the core values of this civilization is that information must be free, but technology has become powerful enough, dangerous enough, that it can only be wielded in all its glory by god
Yes, this book is affected, baroque and preposterous, as you might have guessed from the title (less so towards the end though).
But beneath that surface, there's a daring vision of a posthuman/nanotech far future. Done a hundred times already? No. This time, it's done right!
Compared to the shallow competition, the socio-economic setting of Aristoi is somewhat plausible and actually not that flashy. That's because it doesn't cling to (pre-/post-)cyberpunk tropes (which are all right for the near
Amy Smith
This is my favorite book. Trying to describe this book makes it sound so cheesy, but it is far from it. This book is delightfully original. There are layers to the realities in this book: what happens in the real world and what happens in the virtual world. Occasionally, Walter Jon Williams writes both parts simultaneously by splitting the page, a truly riveting idea! The rest of the book is just as unique.

Jerome Plapp
Interesting societal design, as well as a very clever structural trick where what's happening physically is in one column while the communications between protagonist and his multiple personalities (the foundational scientific development in the universe) are in the right. I read it on Kindle and this aspect was not available, though Williams worked with the publishers to try to get it to work out. I honestly suggest this in paper form as I feel it added a lot to the feel of the story when I ori ...more
Bryn Dole
Mixed review. I had a hard time getting into this book, as the start was mostly a long introduction of imaginary names and inventions. I put the book down for several months before coming back to it and giving it another try. Ultimately I found it very rewarding. A good science fiction thriller. I think Aristoi will appeal most to programmers and engineers, as the Aristoi are the most advanced of programmers/engineers/thinkers/artists and are effectively gods.

While not among my favorite books, I
This is one of the worst books I've ever tried to read. The way it's written makes it very confusing and hard to even understand. What was the author smoking when he wrote this and why would anyone give it 4 or 5 stars? When I got to the part where the guy is being surgically impregnated, oh and the guy doing the surgery was being assisted by a talking dog, I knew it was time to put it down.
Michael Lancashire
I was in two minds over how to rate this book and I'm not often in two minds, I usually have a lot more than two or the comforting illusion of a single coherent one that evolution has fitted us so well with!

I thoroughly enjoyed it as a story, the main character, Gabriel, was interesting and like all good sci-fi it was packed full of good ideas. So maybe four stars. But...

The version I read (on the Kindle) didn't appear to have been edited at all. It was littered with spelling mistakes and missin
I have recently been reading reviews of fantasy and YA novels where people complain the author dumbs things down for the audience, but isn't any smarter than his or her readers. I frequently feel the opposite about science fiction, the most extreme case being "Probability Moon," by Nancy Kress. I was feeling that way about this intricate novel, until I got to the tango scene. I was blaming the story's emotional emptiness on my inability to understand the action. Williams says "The fascination of ...more
Heather Browning
This book to me had lots of great elements, but they just didn't sit together properly. In particular, I found it very difficult to reconcile the parts of the story set on the primitive world within the greater story arc. I liked the world the author had created - the use of technology and the split personalities. I also liked the exploration of a Platonic meritocracy in action. Like others have mentioned, I didn't find the characters particularly relatable, but that wasn't an issue for me in th ...more
J.J. Levesque
One of my favorite books. It's been awhile, and I need to reread this again. I picked it up years ago when I was about fourteen and bored on a camping trip. It was discounted at one of the stores we went to, and having nothing else to read, I bought it. It was one of the best finds I've ever had.

The book is very unique because there are many times the page will suddenly split it two and the narrator will have a conversation with the personalities that reside in his mind while he is having a con
Aaron Rubman
I thought I would enjoy this book - but there were just too many things working against it.

I find it impossible to sympathize with the protagonists, they are callous, conceited, and entirely incapable of analyzing flaws in themselves or others. In fact, the only people who come close to the last are the villains (who have even less respect for human life and dignity than the heroes).

On top of that, the main characters are simply too powerful. They don't even have to wave their hands, problems ev
This is Walter Jon Williams best book in my opinion. It is sci fi but unlike his early works which were more of a cyber punk type story it goes in a different direction. It is set in a far future that is decadent and stagnant with hints of byzantium and Louis the 14th culture. The main plot points develop some what slowly but it fits the languid culture and the self absorbed nature of the main character so you don't really mind the pace. Williams uses an interesting writing device in this book w ...more
Christian Birmele
dissociative identity order

Like many other post-scarcity science fiction novels, this story deals with a privileged human's psychology and how it reacts to pressure. Use of cybernetic implants to corral and assign tasks to alternate personalities is an interesting idea employed in this book.
Dev Null
An interesting look at a society designed to control the use of post-nanotech godlike powers. Reminded me of some of those early Roger Zelazny works where people in the futre assume the roles of gods (Creatures of Light and Darkness, Isle of the Dead, ...) The concept of multiple personalities deliberately cultivated to allow the person to better cope with multi-tasking and uncover hidden expertise is novel and interesting. Overall, I enjoyed it.
Nov 18, 2008 Chad rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chad by: Dave
Shelves: sci-fi
OK, since I'll hear about it if I don't write something about my rating....

1) Good premise and I generally liked the universe Williams created.
2) Overall, a good story line, well paced plot.
3) Well developed characters.

1) There seemed to be an anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) agenda.
2) The fight sequences seemed a bit drawn out to me. Attack, perfect counter, perfect counter, perfect counter... ad nauseum.
3) Ultimately, I disagree with the protagonist, Gabriel's, c
David Rowell
A little confusing at first, due to the very unusual hypothesis, but fascinating and quit well done. I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of the high tech and medieval towards the end,must have been fun to write.
I really enjoyed this. In the far future, the utopian human empire is governed by a ruling class known as Aristoi, picked out via training and exam for their intellect, creativity, and talent at ruling. People often make use of daemons, aspects of their personality to whom they assign names who have limited personality traits and tend to be specialised in their capabilities, to perform multi tasking.

Gabriel, one of the Aristoi, gets involved in an investigation which turns out to uncover a wide
very interesting thought experiment. it starts out with with just enough character development to keep the story functional (it's definitely more concept oriented than character oriented). but around halfway through, the two main characters really start to take off, and ultimately, the book is more about Gabriel himself and his inward experience and growth than it is about the external realities of the world he lives in. Very strong finish, with just enough ambiguity to keep the mind engaged. St ...more
A very hardcore sci-fi book with some fascinating concepts: nanotech building worlds and equipment, a galaxy with an advanced elite that essentially have multiple personality disorder, except that the personalities work together. Fascinating stuff.

However Aristoi suffers from bad editing and being so complicated it's hard to read more than maybe a chapter at a time. One thing I found especially challenging were the names, because everyone had names for each personality, terms of endearment for a
Full review here:

I really wish Williams had written a follow up, since his themes about what makes us human and what the next step in our evolution is are fascinating topis to me.

One of my favorite books of all time. Dense, rich, combining humor and horror and wonder in a fabulous, delicious recipe for brightening a rainy day, or even a rainy year. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

I especially like the character of poor Gabriel's egotistical mom, Vashti. Imagine being declared a god and worshiped by your own mother for eternity. Every scene with Vashti makes me laugh.

I love Aristoi so much that I've bought 3 separate copies, just to make sure that if one copy gets lost or
Andy S
I cannot praise this work enough. I consider it to be the standard to which all space opera should be compared.

Williams does an amazing job (as usual) of integrating the technological background while making sure the story is driven by the characters within it.
B. Rule
Maybe I'll come back to this one, but I just couldn't finish it. It's just so impossibly 90's! It hurts me to read. It's like the Lawnmower Man dressed up in ruffled shirts at the coffeeshop. I can't hang right now.
I only got a quarter of the way through this. It's afflicted with Hard SF Disease, meaning that I couldn't figure out what was going on and I didn't like or care about the characters.
For a Walter Jon Williams book, it's average. I wasn't vowed by the invented postures of regard, that was kinda cheesy. Still, it got better and kept my attention to the end.
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A very well-written and compelling exploration of human potential and frailty. Williams tosses you into the deep end and challenges you to keep up.
Trying to figure out what was happening in the story felt like too much work, so I gave up and took it back to the library.
Derek W.  Wade
What if our own sub-personalities were under our control, rather than merely "moods" that tossed us about?
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Walter Jon Williams has published twenty novels and short fiction collections. Most are science fiction or fantasy -Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire to name just a few - a few are historical adventures, and the most recent, The Rift, is a disaster novel in which "I just basically pound a part of the planet down to bedrock." And that's just the opening chapters ...more
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Destiny's Way (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, #14) Hardwired (Hardwired, #1) Ylesia (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, #14.5) This Is Not a Game (Dagmar, #1) The Praxis (Dread Empire's Fall, #1)

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“He put the point of the knife against what he thought was the cricothyroid membrane, steadied it with the right hand, then slammed the butt with his left palm.

Pain shrieked through him as the knife went in. Blood spurted over his hands. He hoped he hadn't hit the carotid artery--local variation in the throat was considerable, and blood vessels were tricky.

He still couldn't breath. Panic flailed in him and he slapped the butt of the knife again, as hard as he could.

He felt the point strike the back of his throat, gagged, felt more pain. He took a grip on the grainy plastic handle of the knife and twisted, felt cartilage grind as he forced it apart--

--and he breathed. Blood spattered as the long, full breath whistled out. He gurgled as he breathed in.


When he felt ready he got to his feet. He found a fork and jabbed the tines into his incision, then twisted to keep it open. His lungs kept going into spasm in an attempt to cough the obstruction out.”
“I hate it!" he said. "I don't want to be human anymore."
"Neither do I," she said. "It's not a good place to be.”
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