Air (or, Have Not Have) is a science fiction novel that I think non-science fiction readers might enjoy. It won the British Science Fiction Association Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The opening chapter of the novel is a short story (Have Not Have) that Ryman expanded into the novel.
The novel tackles many subjects, among them: political power struggles, resistance and/or adaption to technological change, technological based evolution, metaphysics, the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have-nots’ of our world, the role and acceptance of prophets, and the sociological issues encountered in any population of humans.
The basic plot involves a near-future when the internet is tested as a direct connection to the mind via Air. The results of an Air test are followed through the lives of a fictional Asian village; and, in particular, through Chung Mae, who acquires profound insights and visions through Air.
“It’s all so precious, thought Mae-in-Air, it’s all so beautiful, we have to ignore it all, to get on with the laundry.” (p. 379)
It’s a wonderfully imagined novel: themes are revealed gradually, but effectively. I had some problems getting through the third-quarter of the book and found it difficult to withhold disbelief in a couple of circumstances, particularly Mae’s unusual pregnancy, though her baby is a metaphor for the village, and the end justifies the means; as a whole, it is an exceptional novel.