St. Martin's Dec 2003, 13.95, 400 pp.
In 2020, impoverished Karzistan keeps the same culture that has existed in this mountains Asian country for centuries. The central government feels forcing everyone to enter the information age by bringing modern day technologically to the populace will improve things though the villagers are more interested in food and shelter. Karzistan, along with the rest of the globe, is going on line when Air, the global networking system, is launched. No one bothered to ask villagers of places like Kizuldah whether they wanted to join the international community, because individual rights mean nothing in the Information Age. The connection will reside in everyone's head regardless of feelings.
The first implementation of Air leads to some deaths amidst the villagers. Fashion expert Chung Mae, who provides cosmetics services and sells dresses to the farmers' wives of Kizuldah had been considered the link to the rest of the world before Air was launched. Since Air was fostered on everyone, Mae has the memories of a dead woman co-occupying her head. Meanwhile the government concludes that the test was a success and round two will begin next year so Mae tries to teach Internet 101 to everyone.
Geoff Ryman provides readers with an interesting look at the future with the merging of leaders, bureaucrats and technocrats to trample individual rights. The vivid description of the impacts of the Air imprint on the cerebellum is ingenious. Though the tale at times ironically fails to interconnect its cautionary theme that everyone will be part of the Information Age even if cultures die in the process of enforced adaptation, this is an engaging work of speculative fiction.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner