By the time I got to WisCon this year, all of the booksellers in the dealer room were out of the '05 Tiptree Award winner: Geoff Ryman's Air, or, Have Not Have.  I had read the opening chapter in one of the Year's Best SF/F anthologies (or maybe it was one of the Nebula collections?) a while back, and had eagerly awaited the publication of the full book.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to buy it at WisCon, but it was a pleasant surprise to find a copy when I was down at Central Library here in Milwaukee last Tuesday.  I just finished it today, and I'm pleased to be able to give it a good review.  Does it 'expand or explore our understanding of gender'?  Yes, I suppose.  It's not nearly as directly related to gender as many of the past winners, but I will give Ryman credit for dealing with the idea of a woman in a developing country having to work past massive injustices (many gender-related) to keep her village and friends from being overwhelmed by new technology.

What interests me more, remarkably, is the idea that either the UN or global corporations could impose a networking service on anyone, without a personal choice.  For Mae and her peers receive no vote, are suddenly thrown from the world of Not Have to Have without much transition in a Test that goes awry.  Because they get no choice, Mae finds that she has to teach everyone how this will work…or they will all be lost once Air goes live.

I was quite impressed by the characterization and realization of the people and the world in the novel, as well as the political aspects.  These are real people with real lives facing a fantastic change, and drastically impacts one's view of the Third World.  A good show, really, on Ryman's part, and I'm duly impressed.  It's worth a read.

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