Having thoroughly enjoyed both River of Gods and Brasyl, I couldn't wait to read something new by Ian McDonald. I found the author's Hugo-nominated River of Gods to be a mind-blowing read back in 2006, and I was delighted when I learned that McDonald wrote a number of short fiction pieces set in the same environment.
Cyberabad Days is comprised of eight stories, one of which is a Hugo nominee and another a Hugo winner. As such, it's the perfect companion book to River of Gods, though readers new to the setting can nonetheless enjoy and appreciate the depth of Ian McDonald's fertile imagination in those short stories, novelettes, and novellas.
Fans of River of Gods will devour this one, for McDonald expands and elaborates on many of the concepts which made the novel so ambitious and thought-provoking. Each story stands on its own all right. Yet it's the fact that they're all part of a vaster whole that makes each addition such a great reading experience. Through it all we learn more about how India was sundered into independent states. There is also a wealth of information concerning the water wars, artificial intelligences, the failing monsoons, the genetically improved Brahmins, and much, much more.
And since you get a lot more out of Cyberabad Days if you have previously read River of Gods, I encourage everyone to do so. The novel has been called a major achievement and a masterpiece, so you can't go wrong!
Six of the stories have already been published elsewhere, while two are brand new material. This doesn't happen often, but I enjoyed each piece found in this collection. There is no "filler" within the pages of Cyberabad Days.
In "Sanjeev and Robotwallah," child-soldier roboters must learn to cope with their new lives when the War of Separation comes to an end.
In "Kyle meets the River," a young American witnesses the birth of a new nation.
"The Dust Assassin" is a nice tale of revenge.
"An Eligible Boy" is an interesting story about finding love in a population where males outnumber females by a four to one margin.
"The Little Goddess" is a tale in which a child-goddess in Nepal learns what lies beyond godhood.
In "The Djinn's Wife," a Delhi celebrity falls in love with an artificial intelligence. But can such a marriage work?
And in "Vishnu and the Cat Circus," a genetically improved Brahmin witnesses the final generation of mankind.
Sadly, my ARC didn't include "Jasbir and Sujay go Shaadi," so I can't comment on this last one. Yet since both characters appear in "An Eligible Boy," I reckon the version found in Cyberabad Days could perhaps contain the story of "Jasbir and Sujay go Shaadi" and hence be longer than the original version published in Fast Forward 2 edited by Lou Anders.
All in all, Cyberabad Days is a terrific book and a satisfying return to the world of River of Gods. Ian McDonald is a genius, pure and simple. Can't wait for his next yarn, this one set in a futuristic Turkey.
The final verdict: 8.5/10