Ian McDonald's 'Brasyl`, a holiday destination for the mind
I think I`ve known Ian McDonald since about the late 80s, back when I was doing Shark Tactics and sending it off to every skiffy person of note whose address I could lay hands on. I remember reading ‘Desolation Road’ and being just blown away by it, then getting hold of his first short story collection, ‘Empire Dreams’, from which I received a similar intellectual puggling! The man just has so many strings to that mighty bow of his; it was once said that Ted Sturgeon was a master of technique, able to adapt it to fit whatever type of story he wanted to write, yet Ian has that AND the ability to sound like noone else but himself, regardless of the flavour and texture of the language as it issues forth.
And now we have ‘Brasyl’, fizzing and sparking along in the wake of ‘River Of Gods’, itself a fabulously ambitious, multi-threaded/plaided/braided storyline which looked into the wired lens of a future India. With ‘Brasyl’, however, Ian has deliberately restricted himself to just 3 main character viewpoints (compared with the 7/8 of River of Gods). But then, y`see, he gives us megavalue for money; not only does he set one character storythread in contemporary Brazil, but he places the next in a future Brazil and the 3rd in a 16th century Brazil. Chutzpah, full-on, brazenly daring, like some cyber-madame DeFarge, cackling as he knits these wildly disparate stories into a prose basket with which to catch our heads as the denoument descends to chop em off….or so to speak.
And I read and wonder, and goggle and boggle – and shake my head in a mixture of admiration and personal exasperation. For it is my own heartfelt and ingrained ambition to write, one day, a eurocyberpunk novel to match the Gibsons and the Sterlings, yea verily, and the McDonalds. But the thing is, with every book that Ian writes, he raises the bar just that little bit higher, such that by the time I get round to writing that fabled tome, not only will it have to contain astonishing characters, a gripping plot, a theme of staggering beauty and/or relevance, and descriptive heft fit to make the senses tingle, it’ll also have to straighten your teeth and fix your eyesight too.
But until that happy day, just keep reading Ian`s stuff.
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