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Air   by Geoff Ryman

Read: 2007-09-07 Reviewed: 2008-01-23
Re-read factor:

Internet-in-the-head is introduced to the world. But for one soul in the world's most undeveloped village, the initial test goes wrong leaving her both permanently connected to the new web, and with the conscience of a old lady lodged in her brain.

Mae goes through a set of unexpected episodes manipulated both directly and indirectly by an oppressive communist government, and in an indeterminable way by the new web. She aquires a new appetite for learning, quickly learning to use the new technology, and at the same time is treated as a lab. rat. She goes through a torrent of emotions pushing her into scandalous situations, and ultimately is only accepted back into her village through insight and great courage.

Ryman uses the simple culture as a clean canvas on which to paint a nicely drawn story. He imbues all the characters with charming personas, and creates a very realistic village dynamic. He also introduces some fantasy elements, which heightens the uncertainty of the influence of the internet in Mae's head, oftentimes turning the story in unexpected directions.

The final, culminating, fantasy element is brave of the author to include, to put it mildly, and ultimately puts the book into a different bracket of speculative fiction than the bulk of the work would suggest.

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