Cyberabad days by Ian McDonald
Orion/Hachette. Pages: 313. Price: Rs. 350/-
Automaton Plaguemakers not only destroy standing crops but also poison soil and water for generations to come, airborne drones seek and wipe out hostile targets, cats are actually intelligent missiles which explode on reaching pre-assigned destinations or if confronted with opposition, hi-tech gizmos send text and pictures direct to one’s brains, armies of robots, futuristic warfare, thrills, sex and pathos would please the sci-fi aficionados. But wait a minute. Just have a look at the settings for the seven stories in this collection.
Suicide squads and guerilla attacks, internecine warfare among states that were formerly parts of a united country, US-led Coalition stepping in to restore peace and rebuild the nation… Lebanon? Iraq? Afghanistan? No dear reader, this is India aka Cyberabad circa 2050 where artificial intelligence rules the roost and which has splintered into several warring states that struggle to grab scarce natural resources, especially water. The Bharat of yore has shrunk to the size of what is euphemistically referred to as the cow belt, viz., Bihar-UP, where the traffic is chaotic with cows snarling it up further and Varanasi’s burning ghats pollute the air and water, as ever. Hindus are doing what Muslims had become notorious for 2000 AD onwards, viz., terrorism and anarchist violence.
Ever since India’s independence the West has been predicting its failure as a nation-state, only to be proved wrong repeatedly. Unable to reconcile to India’s success story segments of its intelligentsia can’t help fantasizing, as this crafty, subversive verbiage indicates.