I have been reading River of Gods for a little while now. It, like Windup Girl, started kind of slowly, and both have a fair amount of muck to wade through. So it was so going to start. I'd never read an Ian Mcdonald book before (although I own a copy of The Dervish House, which might have been a better place to start, given I had just finished Paolo's book), so I didn't know what to expect of the author except that Charlie Stross speaks well of him, Iain Banks blurbed him, and in general, he is well regarded in the community. So it was a gamble, but I think a safe gamble, and when I saw the cover and it said "It's 2047: Happy Birthday, India!", I think I was pretty hooked. Windup Girl convinced me there's a lot of material to be developed there (in literature and literally) that just hasn't, and there are so many possibilities, we may even see a sub-genre akin to steampunk. What would it be called? Shivapunk is too limited, as is tikkapunk or hindipunk. Asiapunk is silly, because there's so much already written about China and Japan. Well, someone is going to have to coin a term, because technology is going to develop very, very differently there than here.
Which brings me back to McDonald. I haven't finished the book, but already he's blown me away with some of the speculative technology that isn't really that farfetched. The one thing that irritated me was the use of the term "google-watt". I am not going to assume he means "googol-watt" (that is, 10100) because that power output, even for short durations escapes our abilities, even in 2047. Promise. And why intentionally spell it "google-watt"? Is it specifically playing with the term? Or is it meant to just mean some giant wattage? Why not then riff on Back to the Future like many geeks do and say that it uses eighty jiggawatts! I just failed to see the point.
But the rest of the ideas... spot on, Ian, spot on. I can tell I'll be reading a lot more of your books in the future. Good stuff, and thanks for contributing great fiction to the genre. we need it.