Aaron's Reviews > Air

Air by Geoff Ryman
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's review
Apr 28, 2009

it was ok
Read in May, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Interesting premise and setting, but a frustrating read.

"Air" is a global RF-based version of the Internet accessible without hardware--it interfaces directly with human thought. After an initial test (that yields some disastrous results), Air is to be implemented globally--even in areas of the developing world that previously had little access to the Internet or other Information-Age technologies.

Ryman is at his best when he examines the sociopolitical ramifications of imposing this technology on a developing agrarian culture. His fictional nation of Karzistan seems well-researched; he has an excellent ear for the nuances of cultural exchange between the Islamic-dominated Mideast, the Chinese-dominated East, and the many tribal peoples of the Asian steppes and mountain regions. His descriptions of constructive interactions between these disparate cultures are believable and even comforting to a world torn by ethnic and religious strife.

He also shows good understanding of geopolitical and economic realities. One factor in the adoption of Air is the conflict between two competing technical standards--one public-domain (or global-domain?) version officially adopted by the United Nations, and the other promulgated by a multinational corporation. If such a technology were to be implemented globally, I don't doubt that we would see some version of this conflict in reality.

However, he introduces several magical-realist notions that don't play as well. I found absolutely baffling a main plotline centering on an oral conception of a child (with resultant gestation and birth). Another major thread is the accidental fusion (during the initial global test of Air) of two personalities within the protagonist; this was a little more believable but still too nebulous for my liking. And other novelties like a technologically-enhanced, super-intelligent dog just create distractions in the narrative.

So... interesting ideas, but ultimately too frustrating for me to recommend.

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