River of Gods
By Ian McDonald
The sprawling novel follows a number of different characters' viewpoints around the date of August 15, 2047, the centenary of India's partition and independence from the colonial British Raj. This future India has become balkanized into a number of smaller competing states, such as Awadh, Bharat, and Bangla. The global information network is now inhabited by artificial intelligences, called aeais in the novel, of varying levels of intelligence. Aeais higher than level 2.5 (able to pass the Turing test and imitate humans) are banned, and their destruction ("excommunication") is the responsibility of "Krishna Cops", like Mr. Nandha. While some pockets of the subcontinent are still steeped in ancient tradition and values, mainstream culture is replete with aeais in TV entertainment and robotic swarms in defense. During such a time, Ranjit Ray steps down from his control of Ray Power, a key energy company, and the responsibility falls on his son Vishram Ray. The playboy Vishram is struggling to make it on his own as a stand-up comedian in Scotland when he is flown back to Varanasi to assume this role, for which he finds himself terribly ill-equipped but eventually surprisingly effective. He learns that his company is working on harvesting zero-point energy from other universes, and sees the particle collider built by his father with the help of Odeco, a clandestine investment firm. After a prolonged drought, a severe water shortage threatens to jeopardize the peace between the subcontinental states. To avert this crisis, governments are melting glaciers and modifying natural systems. To take advantage of the unrest, a Hindu fundamentalist leader named N.K Jeevanji organises a "rath yatra" on a spectacular juggernaut. He starts releasing key information to the press via Najia Askarzadah, an ambitious Swedish-Afghan reporter with a desire to be part of history as it is being made. Lisa Durnau notices an apocalyptic crisis brewing in Alterre, a simulated evolution of earth created by AI scientist Thomas Lull, who is currently hiding in a South Indian coastal village. While Lisa is sent into space to investigate an asteroid, Thomas Lull runs into Aj, a girl with mysterious powers that allow her to see into people's lives, pasts and futures. He decides to follow her and protect her during her quest to find her own true identity, but it is soon revealed that Aj's powers extend beyond mere mortals, when she brings a robot army to a halt with the raise of a hand. Tal is a beautiful nute (of neutral gender) involved in the designing team of India's greatest 'soapi', Town & Country, some of the main stars of which are not human actors, but aeais. Tal falls prey to a conspiracy that compromises the career of Shaheen Badoor Khan, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Sajida Rana, leading to her assassination and the fall of the government. All this leads to riots and popular fury against Muslims and transsexuals across Varanasi. Lisa Durnau discovers that at the center of the mysterious asteroid is an 8 billion year old grey sphere, possibly a black hole remnant, or an alien artifact from another civilization. This "Tabernacle" communicates a message to the scientists, and this leads Lisa to India to find Thomas Lull, who alone can explain this phenomenon.
The Legend of Mount Kanlaon
There once lived on the island of Negros a princess named Anina who lived a very sheltered life.
One day, Anina overheard her father talking to the kingdom's chief priestess. The priestess was frantic about a report that they could not find a single maiden who was unblemished.
Later, Anina asked her father what it was all about, and the king finally broke down. There had long been a seven-headed dragon threatening the kingdom, and the monster could only be appeased if an unblemished maiden was sacrificed to it.
In fear, all the women in the kingdom had cut...