Blog – words & images

McDonald: River of Gods

book coverRiver of Gods begins memorably with a flashy small-time crook dumping a woman’s body in the Ganges to let it drift downstream amongst remains from the funeral pyres of Varanasi.

The Ganges, India’s River of Gods, is as sacred as it has been for centuries and the ancient purification rituals are unchanged. Politically, however, India in 2047 is once again a cluster of feuding nation states and the ancient holy city of Varanasi is now the capital of Bharat.

It would be true to say this is a science-fiction novel about artificial intelligence, but that would leave out a lot. This is a big book in every way, with a dozen interweaving stories in settings ranging from Mughal mansions to the poorest slums. We have two pairs of star-crossed lovers, remote-controlled robot surgery, computer-generated soapie actors, an industrialist who gives his company away to become a temple-dwelling ascetic, a new human gender, an alien device concealed in an asteroid older than the solar system, gratuitous violence, a war between Bharat and its upstream neighbour over water resources, wild sex, zero-point energy, and much more.

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Rankin: Fleshmarket Close

book coverIan Rankin has been writing his Rebus books since 1987 and I only discovered them last year. How could I have missed out on a writer this good for so long?

The first few pages of Fleshmarket Close set the scene and initiate three investigations. Detective Inspector John Rebus and his friend and colleague DS Siobhan Clarke have been moved from their old base to work in cramped conditions in Edinburgh’s West. Rebus is assigned to the investigation of the murder of an unidentifiable but clearly foreign man, stabbed and left to die between two blocks of squalid Council flats. At the same time, Clarke is asked for help in tracing a runaway teenage girl. Later that same day, Clarke and Rebus together are sent to discover the history of a pair of skeletons found under the cement floor of a hotel.

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