Patricia McLean's Reviews > River of Gods

River of Gods by Ian McDonald
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's review
Dec 25, 2010

it was amazing
Read in December, 2010 — I own a copy

India is a river, constantly moving, changing, bewildering, giver of life and taker of life. It is most likely that a westerner or non-Indian Asian, perhaps even Indians themselves, cannot truly comprehend the depths of India. In the West, we regard Mesopotamia as the cradle of civilization, but that is western civilization. In Mesopotamia, we learned how to stand still. We stopped roaming around gathering food and started planting and reaping. India contemplated the mind and spirit and grew the religions which would eventually come to dominate. Ian MacDonald sets River of Gods in India, I think precisely because it is a cauldron of religions and a place where religious zealotry occasionally erupts in mob madness.

He builds on the relationship between Hindu concepts of reality and illusion and the science of physics. Of course he is not the first person to draw these connections. The discoveries and theories of quantum physics have created a blurring of our understanding of reality and present to us world in which all that we perceive appears to be illusion. There is nothing more Hindu than the concept of illusion.

River of Gods explores a point where physics, computer technology (artificial intelligence in particular), religion, and the politics of being human intersect. Out of this, nothing less than a new universe is born.

MacDonald chooses to tell his story through several characters of diverse backgrounds and motivations. They are lives entering the great river of humanity that is India, moving always toward the great sea. What is the saying? that you cannot step into the same stream twice, for the waters are constantly moving and changing. You may be in the same river, but the water is not the same. A river is the containment of banks and general channel, but the waters are dynamic.

River of Gods is a splendid novel. Have patience with the set up. You will be rewarded.
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