Review; Brasyl, by Ian McDonald

Unlike Ruzkin, I read a copy of Brasyl that had a stylish blue cover, rather than a curiously weird puke green mess. Not sure which represents the novel better …

So, what we have is a novel in three streams; one follows a TV presenter in present day Brazil. Another follows a Jesuit priest in the past. The third follows a guy in future Brazil, in a setting far more cyberpunk.

Well, I wasn’t as enamored by this novel as Ruzkin. I found it a tough read, and not just because there is a lot of Brazilian flavor and words in there, but because of the writing style.

I guess McDonald does a great job of that Neuromancer style technobable, but in his case, there is as many foreign words as well. Neuromancer, despite its future-slang, was something that I eventually managed to get into and follow. McDonald’s style, I found, was a harder thing. Maybe this book was for a smarter man, with a better attention span, but his style and strange use of punctuation made it hard going for me.

Storywise, the premise alone was enough to make me read. One has to wonder how the three strands knit together. The stories started well enough, nipping along at a pace that Ruzkin had hinted at, but as the story started to develop, things started to sag in the middle. When it finally became obvious how things were going to start ending up, it started picking up again, but almost dawdled about rather than getting to the end.

There were parts that I did like. Some of the description was beautiful indeed, when he wasn’t relying so heavily on local place names, of which I had no knowledge of. The trash dumps, being mined and scavenged by people was a truly stunning set of images.

I wanted to like this book, I truly did. I guess if anything, all the language threw me off and made it difficult for me to understand and read well enough. If anything, it’s made me want to go back and read Neuromancer again.

** of **** stars.

EDIT: And I should have done this with the initial post of course. An opposing viewpoint, a total opposite in fact, can be found over at Ruzkin’s blog. And it’s a stirling review as well.


5 thoughts on “Review; Brasyl, by Ian McDonald

  1. Shame it didn’t grab you so much. I can understand your complaints about the language – I think the book almost demand you have a basic knowledge of Spanish, or at least access to a dictionary. I don’t agree with your accusations of middle-sagging, though – I felt the slowest sections were the opening chapters, and after that it was all craaaaaazy ’till the end.

    Still, an opposing viewpoint is always good! Mind if I link to your review from mine?

  2. Heck yes! I’ll link back to yours. I really shoulda thought about doing that initially. I didn’t mind the opening chapters. I rather liked them actually. They intrigued me and grabbed me enough to keep me going. But I think there was a moment when everyone was on the run and it didn’t grab me as tight as it should have. The 2063 guy confused me a bit too.

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Brasyl, by Ian McDonald – Scribbles and Dreams

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Brasyl, by Ian McDonald- Sci-fi & Fantasy Author

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