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Air: Or, Have Not Have [NOOK Book]


Chung Mae is the only connection her small farming village has to culture of a wider world beyond the fields and simple houses of her village. A new communications technology is sweeping the world and promises to connect everyone, everywhere without power lines, computers, or machines. This technology is Air. An initial testing of Air goes disastrously wrong and people are killed from the shock. Not to be stopped Air is arriving with or without the blessing of Mae's village. Mae is the only one who knows how to ...
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Air: Or, Have Not Have

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Chung Mae is the only connection her small farming village has to culture of a wider world beyond the fields and simple houses of her village. A new communications technology is sweeping the world and promises to connect everyone, everywhere without power lines, computers, or machines. This technology is Air. An initial testing of Air goes disastrously wrong and people are killed from the shock. Not to be stopped Air is arriving with or without the blessing of Mae's village. Mae is the only one who knows how to harness Air and ready her people for it's arrival, but will they listen before it's too late?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
On the heels of his whimsical fantasy, Lust (2003), British author Ryman makes a triumphant return to science fiction in this superbly crafted tale. Life in Kizuldah, a village in Karzistan, has changed little over the centuries, though most homes have electricity. Chung Mae, the local fashion expert, earns her living by taking women into the city for makeovers and by providing teenagers with graduation dresses. Intelligent and ambitious, this wonderfully drawn character is also illiterate and too often ruled by her emotions. One day, the citizens of Kizuldah and the rest of the world are subjected to the testing of Air, a highly experimental communications system that uses quantum technology to implant an equivalent of the Internet in everyone's mind. During the brief test, Mae is accidentally trapped in the system, her mind meshed with that of a dying woman. Left half insane, she now has the ability to see through the quantum realm into both the past and the future. Mae soon sets out on a desperate quest to prepare her village for the impending, potentially disastrous establishment of the Air network. For all its special effects, what makes the novel particularly memorable is the detailed portrait of Kizuldah and its inhabitants. Besides being a treat for fans of highly literate SF, this intensely political book has important things to say about how developed nations take the Third World for granted. (Dec. 1) Forecast: Though the book isn't labeled SF, blurbs from John Clute and Kim Stanley Robinson will help signal genre readers. Ryman has won World Fantasy, Arthur C. Clarke and John W. Campbell awards. Last June he was guest of honor at the annual conference of the Science Fiction Research Association. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"Air" is a hyperadvanced technology that brings the Internet and other realities, virtual and otherwise, directly into one's head. A step down from that is interactive "television" (which begs the word's etymology, but never mind). Several steps down from that is the hardscrabble farming village of Kizuldah, Karzistan, where people grub odd jobs to subsist, raising meager crops, chickens, and goats. In Kizuldah, "fashion expert" Mae tries to brighten people's lives and act as a cultural bridge; then, during a disastrous, deadly alpha test of Air, she is imprinted with the memory of an old woman, which vitalizes the past for her. She decides that she must contextualize the villagers' past and apparent future-no small feat. This is high-concept fiction and may appeal to readers of the genre. But it's hard to deduce its target audience; the tech stuff isn't high-octane enough for techies, and the rural realism breaks no new ground. For adventurous sf collections.-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Like the Internet, only more so. It's 2020 in Karzistan, a chaotic and badly run Central Asian country where the people live as they have for centuries-poor and struggling on harsh, mountainous land-while the government seems compelled to bring them technologically into the present. An unsuspecting linchpin in this effort is middle-aged Chung Mae, who makes a rough living as an in-residence fashion expert for her remote village. Like the rest of the world, Karzistan is set to launch into Air, the next step in global networking. Air doesn't even require a computer, but will reside in every person's head, allowing everyone to link into the network. But the first test of Air is catastrophic, killing a few and leaving a strange effect on Mae, who is left with memories of a dead woman in her head, a woman who led a much more vivacious life than Mae ever has. The government declares that Air will be tested again in a year, leading Mae to prepare her village by educating them on the Net as much as she can. Meantime, she also teaches herself-the woman's voice in her head disapproving and angry-and finds that she's able to expand her homespun business. But her new independence runs afoul of her neighbors, and she's stuck negotiating between suspicious government officials and distrustful, conservative villagers. Fantasist Ryman (253, 1998, etc.) has an uncanny knack for imagining the clumsy overreaching of eager technocrats, and his description of the mental effects of Air are astounding: Imagine AOL imprinted on your cerebellum. But while Mae is an impressive heroine, and the text is full of sharp commentary and vivid characters, the story itself fails to engage fully and bogs down for longstretches. Not always compelling as fiction, then, but containing many a worthy insight about how the world will be dragged further into the Information Age, like it or not.
From the Publisher
"Air is wonderful...Ryman is a true, graceful writer and this is a novel you move into and inhabit for as long as you can make it last."

Kit Reed - author of Seven for the Apocalypse & @expectations

"Reading the first sentence of Geoff Ryman's brilliant new novel is like passing through a Tipping Point. The instant he touches you with his story, you're caught, and the world changes as suddenly as Paul Revere changed America: because it brings the news. Air is a message from the future beyond broadband. More than a message, it's a tip. Listen to Geoff Ryman and you're already on the inside track."

- John Clute, author of The Book of Endtimes

"Say that we are all already living in Air, and need with all our heart to know better what it means and how it works. That would be one way of describing the continuous pleasure of reading this great novel—the thrill of recognition. It is like a magic mirror—we are in Chung Mae and she is in us, and her world is utterly alive. What more can fiction do."

- Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Mars Trilogy & The Years of Rice and Salt

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466828988
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 662,461
  • File size: 550 KB

Meet the Author

Geoff Ryman is the author of 253, Was, The Child Garden, and The Unconquered Country. He has won the World Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and The British Science Fiction Association Award. He lives in London, England.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2006

    A remarkable book

    Air is a brilliantly conceived book that- at its very core- is a damning indictment of the 'civilized' world's immoral disregard of cultures considered 'primitive' and therefore inferior, even expendable. At the same time, it's also a novel about hope, and the remarkable resiliency of the human spirit. These messages shine brightly together in Ryman's clever story, where a Karzistan village- filled with people living meaningful, dignified lives in their own way- is disrupted and change forever when the villagers are selected as guinea pigs in an ill-fated United Nations experiment involving Air, a quantum device intended to transmit a flood of worldwide information directly into their targeted brains- in essence, 'westernizing' them in an instantaneous and overwhelming fashion. The result is chaos for the villagers, even death, and the beginning of a strange, almost magical journey for Chung Mae, a village elder who becomes a seer of sorts, and a warrior for survival of her people. Although very different from those of us in the west, Ryman's characters are not only believable, but universal and immediately familiar. As intriguing as the book's premise is, it's these sharply defined characters that keep the pages turning, as we weep for what they lost forever and cheer them on to victory. I can't recommend this book highly enough, especially for those who 'hate' science fiction because they have no idea what it's capable of. Air will change their minds. Another science fiction novel that touches on the themes of dignity and resiliency of the human spirit is the intelligent An Audience for Einstein, a young adult title. I'm far too old to wear that young adult label myself, but still found it enjoyable and highly worthwhile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

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