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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,216 ratings  ·  73 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.
Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 7th 1993 by Tom Doherty Associates (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,216 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended, sf
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 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 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 Faust
Jan 20, 2008 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.

DNF'ed at 26%.
Jul 19, 2010 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
Jerome Plapp
Apr 01, 2013 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
Mar 22, 2016 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
Jun 11, 2012 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
Kat Heatherington
May 17, 2011 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 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,
Nov 29, 2011 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.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: partly-read, kindle
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.
Jacob O'connor
Nov 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Sometimes incomprehensible. Sometimes aimless. I don't know which is worse.
Bryn (Plus Others)
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spec-fic
I loved this in a very particular way, such that it has taken me some time to review it because I wanted to get my thoughts thoroughly in order. This is a work of speculative fiction from 1992, and not just from any 1992, it is from *my* 1992, by which I mean that the things is speculates about, the things it takes deeply for granted, the aesthetic it uses -- all of this is what I was absolutely devotedly in love with at the time it was written, so much so I might not have appreciated the book b ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bria by: Michael Raimondi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing, although I don't suppose I'm the right audience for this. This book, and Walter Jon Williams generally, is absolutely fantastic at things that I don't care about at all in novels. The world-building is exquisitely detailed: several new technologies (multiple minds, virtual reality, nanotechnology, behavioral conditioning, and many others) are developed and described in great detail, and the rigid social organization is similarly described in all its nuances. That bores me. All of ...more
Dan Trefethen
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This novel dates from the early 90s, when science fiction was absorbing and reworking the early themes of cyberpunk. It combines elements of implanted technologies with older space opera motifs in an attractive way. The ubiquitous use of nanotechnology, relatively new in SF at the time, serves to fuel the story.

SF has often toyed with the idea of technologically advanced humans acting as gods, or literally setting themselves up as gods (cf., Zelazny's 'Lord of Light', the 'Amber' series, and Sim
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In the far future, a meritocracy of sorts exist, with those who pass the most difficult tests awarded the rank of Aristoi and the power over the most dangerous technologies, as well as domains where they can pursue their own interests and rule their own empires, with certain restrictions. One of these Aristoi comes across a conspiracy that may reach to the very heart of their civilization.

Honestly, I didn't much care for this one, not outright dislike, but overall a sense of disinterest. There w
Brown Robin
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
This book is set in a Chinese/Iranian/Subcontinental inspired future (as best I can determine), which makes it unique. It definitely has an affinity with Hyperion, so if you enjoyed the Simmons books you might enjoy this.

I did not enjoy this. The characters are post-human superbeings, which do not interest me. I do not care for stories about royalty, superheroes, or gods, etc. I just don't care. So this story never engaged me, which is too bad. It is interesting. YMMV.
Otty Medina
This one took me a while to get into. Slow to start, but the actual action was deftly written. Still thinking through the book's philosophical implications.

To me, in a sense, it's a space opera Fight Club with a little bit of Timeline thrown in for good measure. Space monkeys included.
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Slow start, but worth sticking with it. 4½ stars.
David Causey
Aug 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
Terrible book could not get past the first few chapters.
Josh Rosenbaum
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Good early work by Walter Jon Williams. Solid story but lacking some of the polish of later works!
Kayla Lavander
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Martial Arts scenes in this book are the best fighting scenes ive ever read.
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-read, fantasy-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
Will Shogren
These jargon-heavy, far future SF novels are just not for me.
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just reread this partially because I needed to call on old coping mechanisms and that call out made me think of the book and of the discussions I had with other friends who read it when it was new. I like Gabriel just as I did back then, maybe more now. Unlike then I will admit he is inhuman. I think that may actually be why I like Gabriel even if no one else does. "The Disturber"... I love it.

My preference is to vacillate between a physical copy and an e-book when I read now. I did so for th
Aaron Rubman
Mar 10, 2012 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 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
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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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