Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney
rozk

O happy day!

Which, ironically, is the title of one of Geoff Ryman's darkest short stories, but is the appropriate thing to say when he wins the Arthur C. Clarke for what may be his best novel yet.

Geoff is an old dear friend, and so very talented that I don't feel any guilt, dilemmas or embarrassment about promoting his work.

And here is my review of 'Air' again. Go and read the book.


AIR by Geoff Ryman
( Gollancz 390pp. £14.99)
reviewed by Roz Kaveney

One of the pleasures of being a reader of science fiction is hugging to ourselves like misers several wonderful writers that most people never get to discover for themselves. Another more generous one is shouting out loud, from time to time, that people who think that they don't read sf, really need to read *this* book at least.

'Air' is a novel about people living in a village in Central Asia about twenty years from now - there is a reference to Madonna's sixtieth birthday. Mae is the fashion expert - the go-between who brings local women cosmetics and dresses from the city - but she knows that her days are numbered as television and the internet bring expertise ever closer to home. She needs a new career.

A new technology - Air - which connects all human minds directly to the Net both nearly destroys Mae during its first test and gives her her chance. It kills her aged neighbour Mrs Tung and traps her mind in Mae's, giving Mae a sense of how life used to be and how many dangers might return. Air in other words makes her a prophet, and creates for her all the problems that prophets have in their home town.

This is a book with technology in it, and an achingly beautiful sense of remote mountains and the houses that nestle among them, and of the complex messy lives of people caught between modernity and the traditional. It is delicately erotic, and hearstopping in its sense of the perils of friendship and often very funny as its trickster heroine tries to escape the traps set for her by the past and the future. It is also as well informed about the growing of rice and the cutting of stylish clothes as it is about quantum theory and information technology.

None of Geoff Ryman's books is quite like another - 'Air' is perhaps his most mature book in that it is the one that is most like each one of all of the rest, only better and richer than any of them.

Geoff was a contender in a very strong field, several of whom are on my friends list or read this, but are also very good, very talented writers. I would have been happy with almost any decision the committee made; as it was, I am frakking ecstatic.

*****

I also looked in at the Serpents Tail party and nearly got bored and left, and then found myself caught up in an absolutely delightful conversation with people I knew slightly before, and now think of as friends and colleagues. Which just goes to show that you should never let tiredness and shyness and a vague feeling that the cool people are snubbing you lead you to leave parties too early. Stay long enough to find yourself a good time, and then leave wanting more. I don't mean leave them wanting more, though that's also true. Enjoy enough that you feel happy, and leave on the high.

Words to live by, and perhaps also...
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