Walter Jon Williams: Aristoi

Walter Jon Wiliams
Tor Paperback edition first published 1993, 448 pages.

Nano technology, genetic engineering, neural linkups, and virtual reality are all fashionable topics for those writers looking at current technological trends and the future. But writers tend to forget that ALL these technologies will be well developed in the future. Not to forget the ever increasing power of computers and other more mundane technologies. Of course, any author who tries to bring all these elements together risks designing a setting too complex and strange to describe let alone tell an interesting story. But Walter Jon Williams is an author of rare and exceptional skill. Aristoi combines all these elements and more into a superb, exciting, detailed and enthralling story.

The story is set many years after the accidental destruction of the earth by rogue nano-robots. The surviving, much enhanced, human race is now ruled by the Aristoi. These are no ordinary aristocrats - for a start, you reach this level by passing examinations not by birth - an equal opportunity upper crust. The hero, one of this privileged class, discovers that another of their number has been up to a bit of mischief. If illegally terraforming planets and creating entire civilisations to play with can be called mere mischief. Yes, this story is an epic space opera on the grand scale, where the hero can whip up a new super-battleship with just a drop of nanoagent.

This book has another face - an intense personal examination of the personality of the hero. He, like others of his kind, has an enhanced multi-part personality. We eavesdrop on the interplay of these partial personalities from time to time - it provides possibly the most realistic representation of a superior or enhanced mind that has been written.

Then there is the human interest angle. Our hero is a friendly fellow, he falls in love with ease. The uses Williams suggests for virtual reality and neural linkups are unique. They offer a new perspective on lovemaking in the future. And don't think this stops at long distance sex using virtual reality - that's just the starting point.

Williams is a top flight writer of great versatility. Yet again he has written a book significantly different from the last. The only things Aristoi has in common with Days of Atonement is the quality of the result. In times gone by, Williams' works have been hard to come by in this country - this is changing now so that this latest work should be readily available. Don't miss it.

There are no metaphorical ratings for this work, Aristoi is simply the best book I have read this year.