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3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,055 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Successful in its efforts to create a glittering interstellar empire, founded on the use of an ultra-advanced computer and bioengineering technology, humankind becomes the prey of its own creation, the Aristoi.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 7th 1993 by Tor Books (first published 1992)
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(showing 1-30)
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Aug 20, 2009 Angela rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, recommended
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
Feb 03, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2012 Outis rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2008 Amy Smith rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 01, 2013 Jerome Plapp rated it really liked it
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
Jun 11, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
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
May 17, 2011 Yarrow rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2013 Bryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 29, 2011 Tammie rated it did not like it
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.
May 12, 2017 Bubbly rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Slow start, but worth sticking with it. 4 stars. ...more
Jul 30, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-read
An original, well-written, unputdownable piece of sci-fi-fantasy. Why fantasy? Because half of it involves the setting of a feudal world; and partly because it is redolent of the pantheon of gods of Zelazny's Lord Of Light [1967] - which is truly fantastic.

Otherwise, it's a straight science fiction, without any attempt at scientific explanation of the advanced technological physics, except in overall reference; such as, their galactic communications system is based on tachlines, which somehow de
Aaron Rubman
Mar 10, 2012 Aaron Rubman rated it did not like it
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
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Jul 16, 2016 Allan Dyen-Shapiro rated it really liked it
I read this one on a recommendation. What I liked most was the stylistic innovations and world building. Imagine a world in which Plato's ideas of rule by the elite have been realized. Aristoi, nobility, can fragment their personality into sub-personalities that are good at particular things and can multi-task in the real world simultaneously with any number of elaborately programmed virtual worlds. There is even two parallel sex scenes at one point in the book. When this is happening, Williams ...more
Jul 19, 2010 Hester rated it did not like it
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
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
Brian Barr
Sep 01, 2015 Brian Barr rated it it was amazing
The first real science fiction book I remember reading was Aristoi, a novel I randomly bought from a dollar store in middle school. The book changed my life forever. Walter Jon Williams has a gift with language and description, which plays really well in this book. Walter's love of philosophy, Asian culture, and technology weave together to create a fantastic universe in which an aristocratic class lords over their own planets and environments. There are interesting moments of bi-location in the ...more
Heather Browning
Jul 06, 2013 Heather Browning rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
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
Sam Ellis
Apr 14, 2016 Sam Ellis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this many many years ago and I loved it! I recently re-read it and find that I still love it. At the time it was written, the concept of it was something alien and unique and it made it a little hard to break into for some people, but those who were able to "get it" were heavily rewarded by it. At the time of its publication the Internet was a relatively new concept, it was certainly Pre-WWW. The concept of the story being a fully realized virtual world that occurs simultaneously wi ...more
Mar 22, 2016 Bob rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
A very tiresome book. The story had some creative points, but it was mostly just tiresome. Main strikes against it:
1) It's a utopia. Whatever else a utopia can be, it makes for a dreadfully dull book. But I could've overlooked that (it ventures outside the utopia), except that...
2) It's a preachy utopian book. The worst kind. I don't read sci-fi to get preached at: I don't have much respect for the philosophical pretensions of sci-fi authors. I don't mind thought-provoking discussion or speculat
Michael Lancashire
Mar 16, 2014 Michael Lancashire rated it liked it
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
May 11, 2010 Kris rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Feb 19, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in my early twenties. At that time, it was an arresting and very different style of writing with a fascinating look at an imitative world full of nanotechnology. The duplicate streams of consciousness fit in a world where AOL was popular and multiple chat boxes were just emerging as a way to communicate. Going back to read the book again recently, I was struck by how relevant the key themes continue to be around the use/abuse of power.

While I have not been able to get int
Dev Null
Nov 14, 2011 Dev Null rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Feb 22, 2008 Chad rated it liked it
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
Nov 18, 2012 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
May 04, 2013 Ascian rated it it was amazing

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
Sep 23, 2015 Morgan rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel. The main character is one of the ruling class in a future utopia, where old age and sickness have been banished. Their galaxy spanning society has made life good for most of their billions of inhabitants, but there are hints of sedition among the ruling class.

The book is a fun read that deals with questions of consciousness, self-improvement, and questions about what makes a life good.
Jun 23, 2015 Fulan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is one of those science-fiction novels where the author is so in love with the process of creating the New World, that we simply have to sit and listen and he gases on about how wonderful this world is. Nonetheless there are moments, set pieces, that are increasingly compelling is the novel goes forward. By the end you're glad you stuck with it b
Christian Birmele
Apr 06, 2015 Christian Birmele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
David Rowell
May 16, 2014 David Rowell rated it really liked it
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.
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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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“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.”
“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.”
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