Air: Or, Have Not Have

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I am helped by the fact that I read this at about 2 am and for a moment thought that I must have just made the stomach-baby up out of crazy sleep deprivation.

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Can you actually have a baby the size of your hand? It's like Geoff Ryman just kinda went crazy with the pregnancy subplot and maybe some people who actually knew shit were like "wait, you can't have a baby from your stomach, there's all acid in there and shit, the uterus is there for a reason and the reason is that foetuses are kinda sensitive and need all that amniotic fluid and stuff" but Geoff Ryman was like "no, wait, okay, but it's SYMBOLIC" and the people were like "oh okay then.

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Perhaps you can think of it as the one flaw Muslim artisans were said deliberately to introduce into their work, because only God is perfect. The one where Air is going to put the internet inside everyone's brain, and in a tiny village between Russia and China, where there's only one television set and no one has ever seen the internet, fashion consultant Mae is forced into a very strange future.

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Oh, man, it's really hard to rate this. I absolutely adored everything about it but one thing, and that one thing is so so so stupid that it's messing up my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Let's get the stupid thing out of the way -- and it' The one where Air is going to put the internet inside everyone's brain, and in a tiny village between Russia and China, where there's only one television set and no one has ever seen the internet, fashion consultant Mae is forced into a very strange future.

Let's get the stupid thing out of the way -- and it's spoilery because it doesn't even happen until page or so: Mae gets pregnant.

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In her stomach. Yes, her literal food-digesting stomach. And this is because I hate this so much. Also: Mae continues to menstruate, but gets morning sickness at the same time, as if the author thought menstruation and morning sickness were caused by some kind of magic, rather than hormones; there's a baffling wrongheadedness about pregnancy in general. It's not magic realism or whimsy; it's just dumb. It's as if you'd given me a story which expected to be taken seriously as happening in the literal real world, and then had someone swallow a watermelon seed and have it sprout in their stomach and grow out of their mouth, only with bonus creepy ambivalences about femaleness and reproduction -- which is all the worse because the rest of the book is so unusually good about women and the realities of physical life.

Got that out of my system. Now to the rest of the book, which I genuinely loved: It is, of all impossible things, a heartwarming and uplifting story about the fast pace of technological change. The initial test of Air results in two deaths in the village, and Mae, through an accident, winds up with one of the dead women living in her head note: in context, this is plausible, unlike stomach pregnancy and also is permanently connected with Air even though no one is supposed to be using it yet.

These two things result in her having to confront the future, and she drags the entire village with her, and there are friendships and enmities, betrayals, love, meditations on time and change. By the end of the book, I felt great affection even for the people I hated. It was beautiful. So I'm going to go ahead and give it four stars in spite of that one thing, because I loved the rest so much. Just pretend Mae gives birth out of her uterus like the entire rest of the human race, and it will be fine.

View all 5 comments. Mar 18, Glenn rated it it was ok Shelves: nope. Firstly, I take issue with this book being listed on a best SciFi of the last decade list where I found it. The fictional science is weak at best, and outright fantasy at worst. This book would be a prime example of why many people see the genres of SciFi and fantasy to be blurred.

In my opinion if you're going to write about implausible, bad science, just leave it and call it magic.


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What i Firstly, I take issue with this book being listed on a best SciFi of the last decade list where I found it. What it is, is speculative fiction which explores some definitely interesting sociological ideas. It has one Good Book aspect, in that it asks a nice compact "what if" and proceeds to elaborate. If you ignore the bad science, pure fantasy, and supernatural aspects of the implementation of such a thing, this book because a fascinating culture study. The characters are residents of a small, poor village in a third world country. Each character is very real, very human, very flawed, and endearing.

Despite being set in a society in which women are second class citizens, and often not even treated like real people, the females are the primary characters, and they pass the Bechdel test very quickly. So, I liked this book a lot; however I would never recommended it as SciFi, and the pool of friends to which I would recommend it at all is very tiny.

The science simply has too many issues. I'm not even going to address the ridiculous stomach pregnancy and subsequent mouth birth beyond this. Read other reviews for that if you want, but that falls on the absolute worst side of the bad science in this book, I was more comfortable with the supernatural aspects than that bullshit.

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View 1 comment. May 20, Mike rated it liked it Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy , sci-fi-fantasy-club.

Sci fi club book. It's a good thing this was an assignment, although we did feel it started off a little slowly, we kept at it - and did enjoy it.

The basic premise describes the next generation of world wide connectivity, AIR, a method that accesses and explores the Internet directly by the mind. An initial trial goes very wrong, overloading many people to the point of suicide, but the full launch is still on schedule. In a little and backward village in a Third World country one of the villagers, Mae Sci fi club book.

In a little and backward village in a Third World country one of the villagers, Mae, figures out how to use and manage AIR, and decides to prepare her fellow villagers for the final deployment. After the test her mind is inexplicably still linked into AIR, and can also see parts of the past and future. In addition, she has retained, in a corner of her mind, the personality and memories of old Granny Tung, who died in the test.

The story focuses on the development of Mae's character, as she develops into an entrepreneur and a leader. Her goal is to prepare her people for the inevitable changes due to AIR as it floods their minds with information and connectivity, as well as the future event of a physical flood of water, a spring run-off that will overrun and change their village. She uses the connectivity to link the worlds too, marketing her village's hand embroidered collars to the high tech youth of New York city. A good book, but we could have done without the baby developing in her stomach, then being vomited up as a stunted, disabled infant, already knowing how to use AIR.

Feb 06, Lightreads rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction , science-fiction. A tiny mountain village in loosely fictionalized Asia is the test site for Air, the internet beamed right into your brain. Chung Mae is a proper wife and a fashionista — the test and her collapsing world make her become a whole hell of a lot more. She is this intense, homegrown, bootstrapped, amazing kind of savvy, sharp enough to cut herself A tiny mountain village in loosely fictionalized Asia is the test site for Air, the internet beamed right into your brain. She is this intense, homegrown, bootstrapped, amazing kind of savvy, sharp enough to cut herself sometimes, too.

This book is about her and her village and her tumultuous personal life, and a battle for corporate control of technology, and education, and being the village madwoman. There is something suspicious to me about drawing so many analogies and references to actual Asian countries while avoiding the rigor and exactitude of, you know, actually writing about Kazakhstan and its people. Jul 27, Ian Prest rated it it was ok Shelves: book-club. I don't get what all the fuss is about.

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This book has a few interesting ideas, but it never really explores any of them in depth. Is it a book about the accidental merging of two personalities? Is it a book about the evolution of the human species? Is it a book about the nature of reality? Is it a book about the impact of technology on our lives? It tries to be all of these and more! To top it off, the characters are almost uniformly mean-spirited an I don't get what all the fuss is about. To top it off, the characters are almost uniformly mean-spirited and unlikable.

I found it difficult to care about any of them. Dec 28, Rachel Kalanadi rated it liked it Shelves: winners-clarke , science-fiction.

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