Your Ad Here


main | archive | about us | feedback


issue: 01/01/2001

- Books
- Games
- Gear
- Music
- News
- Software

search mindjack


The best of the web.

Mailing List
Get informed of site updates.

buy this book at

by Karl Schroeder

- reviewed by Cory Doctorow

The planet Ventus is a marvel of the terraformer's art. Rather than shoving around great loads of soil, gasses and liquids to make the world hospitable, Ventus' designers deployed a mere 70 kilos of intelligent nanotechnology. When the nanos landed, they used the world's fabric to copy themselves, absorbing the world's foundations as a sponge absorbs a bucketful of water, until the very planet was intelligent -- or rather, intelligences, a collection of autonomous gods and demigods and sprites and spirits, collectively called the Winds.

Ventus sings. The ocean sings, "I am an ocean," and the waves sing, "I am a wave." The Winds sing their songs as they negotiate among themselves for the preparation of the world for the human masters to come. The clouds negotiate with the crops to provide water, the earthmovers negotiate with the sod over mineral allocation. Ventus is a Garden, a jewel of a world in a universe populated with innumerable humans and post-humans, and machine-human intelligences that embody as entire planets.

Ventus is a garden, fallen. A thousand years after the terraforming project, the Winds have forgotten their human masters. Now the Winds barely tolerate the fallen inhabitants of the garden world, capriciously manifesting as avenging angels that smash overly technological artifacts and their makers; manifesting as sinister morphs that maintain ecological balance by tearing bears apart to make gophers; manifesting as the attenuated, magnetic celestials whose Heaven hooks crush masonry and rend bone as they seek to expunge infectious humanity.

Jordan Mason, the boy-hero of the story, has been unwittingly implanted with off-world technology that turns him into a spy for Armiger, the avatar of the fallen God/world 3340. It's this very technology that makes him a target of the ruling machines, who come to perceive him a foreign technology that must be eliminated by the world's all-powerful immune system. Aided by the bounty-hunters Caladria May and Axel Chan, Jordan learns to control his technology and finds that the world itself is alive, shouting and singing in a billion variegated voices. Gradually, the boy comes to communicate with the planet itself, and to discover the internecine battles that have turned Ventus from Heaven to Hell.

Schroeder's a voracious autodidact, and he weaves his multifarious backgrounds into the storyline, burying clues to Ventus's mysteries in avant-garde linguistics, in pervasive computing theory, in cryptography, and in the theology of his apostate Mennonite forefathers. The book is as epic in scope as The Lord of the Rings, but more nuanced; it's as technologically daring as Snow Crash, but better controlled, with a narrative that makes its many pages fly past. Schroeder's created a startling, thought-provoking marvel of a book, a voice to equal any of the new guard that the Commonwealth has materialized of late: Scotsmen Ken MacLeod and Iain Banks and Aussie Greg Egan have a new contemporary.

b i o :
Cory Doctorow is a gadget-fixated science-fiction writer and entrepreneur who makes his home in San Francisco, California and Toronto, Canada. He is the co-founder and Chief Evangelist of openCOLA, Inc., and recently won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer at the Hugo Awards in Chicago. His (nearly) daily eyemodule journal can be found at


main | archive | about us | feedback