Brasyl by Ian McDonald

Product info (from Goodreads):

Three separate stories follow three main characters:

–Edson is a self-made talent impressario one step up from the slums in a near future São Paulo, a city of astonishing riches and poverty. A chance encounter draws Edson into the dangerous world of illegal quantum computing. Where can you run in a total surveillance society where every move, face, and centavo is constantly tracked?

–Marcelina is an ambitious Rio TV producer looking for that big reality TV hit to make her name for good. When her hot idea leads her on the track of a disgraced World Cup soccer goalkeeper, she becomes enmeshed in an ancient conspiracy that threatens not just her life, but her very soul.

–Father Luis is a Jesuit missionary sent into the maelstrom of 18th-century Brazil to locate and punish a rogue priest who has strayed beyond the articles of his faith and set up a vast empire in the hinterland. In the company of a French geographer and spy, what he finds in the backwaters of the Amazon tries both his faith and the nature of reality itself to the breaking point.

My impressions:

Brasyl is a story presented in three distinct strands of time – some of them are more captivating than the others but all of them are worth following because, ultimately, they make sense, click together, and so every piece of news matters. Yes, you’re reading me right, I am actually praising a time travel novel. The main action concerns Marcelina Hoffman; a coked-up, ambitious reality TV producer living in contemporary Brazil who is embarking upon a mad new project. She wants to find the disgraced goalie who lost Brazil the World Cup title half a century before. Marcelina grew up on me after a while but she wasn’t my favourite character to be honest. I liked Edson far better.

Edson is the hero of another strand, set in mid-21st century Sao Paulo. He is a young man who tries hard to make a carreer in a favela at a moment when the first quantum technologies are reaching the street. In the middle of his activity he finds the love of his life – and then loses her as quickly as he found her. What will take to make her return from the dead? Is it possible at all? Edson believes it is and then everything changes for him and his family… a gripping story but I don’t want to spoil you too badly so I won’t say anything else.

Finally there’s Father Luis, an Irish jesuit, who is also a fencing master. He was sent on his quest in the 18th century Amazonian forest in order to find another Jesuit who had erred, according to his superiors. I liked his story arc as well, it was the most dramatic of all, but I found it a bit too short. Yes, I wanted more of Father Luis but, unfortunately, three stories merged and he was lost for the reader in the space-time continuum. Pity.

Final verdict:

Easily the best book, sci-fi or otherwise, I’ve read this year. The summary on the jacket says, “Think Blade Runner in the tropics” but I think it’s completely wrong. It’s not Blade Runner, it’s more like Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle trilogy plus some quantuum physics. Delicious. I do recommed it to all readers who like original sci-fi stories with a strong Brazilian flavour.

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4 Responses to Brasyl by Ian McDonald

  1. blodeuedd says:

    I only saw the cover and went all meh! But then you say it was amazeballs

  2. Carole Rae says:

    Woah! I’m glad you liked it!! It does sound really good

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