Walter Jon Williams’ Aristoi- Space Opera Classic



Originally posted here:

Years ago, I was lucky to find a great book at a dollar store, and the novel is still among my favorites.

Aristoi, written by Walter Jon Williams, is a classic space opera science-fiction novel that introduced me to nanotechnology, experimental narration (which served as good preparation for when I read Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange a few years later), and LGBT characters in speculative fiction.

What I discovered in Aristoi was a revolutionary work, the likes of nothing I had ever encountered before in my life. Aristoi featured a bisexual lead character by the name of Gabriel, one of an elite community living far into the future. This elite community, the Aristoi, created their own planets, lived out their own fantasies on a very complex virtual reality “internet” system, eradicated illnesses, and basically lived in luxury. Another interesting thing about the “internet” system of the Aristoi is that they could bi-locate between the physical and digital world. There are amazing scenes where Gabriel is doing one thing in his “real” surroundings, while doing something else online, and being entirely cognizant of both actions. Talk about multitasking!

Gabriel is equipped with “daimones”, different facets of personalities connected to his brain. These daimones give him different options of how he can act in certain situations, help him read the body movements of people he encounters, and offer him companionship. The cool thing about Aristoi is (and I’ve never seen a novel do this before or after reading Aristoi) there are sections of the book where the paragraphs break into two columns: one column showing the daimones speaking with Gabriel, another column continuing the narration of the story through Gabriel’s POV.

​The novel details what happens when paradise goes wrong. A rebel among the Aristoi, bored with the lack of pain and tragedy in this perfect community, finds his own way to enjoy chaos in this new, perfect future. That’s the best way I can describe the conflict of the novel without giving too much away.

This book was released in the early 90’s, and it still holds up today. I’ve read it multiple times, and highly recommended. Walter Jon Williams has a lot of other great novels, like Voice of the Whirlwind, and he’s tackled everything from space operas to comedy science fiction. He also crafts great short stories and novellas. My favorite short from him is Prayers on the Wind, a dark cyberpunk tale mixed with left-hand tantric Buddhism. His books are on Amazon, for Kindle and Print.

Prayers on the Wind

Next review I’m likely to cover is my childhood favorite (and the one that scared the crap out of me) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Influences me to this day. Thank you for reading and come by soon.

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