My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Brasyl by Ian McDonald threads three separate tales spanning the past, present, and future of Brasil: Marcelina, a reality TV producer in Rio de Janeiro in 2006; Edson, a street hustler in São Paulo in 2032; and Father Louis Quinn, who is tracking down an errant Jesuit in a remote area of the Amazon River Basin in 1732 (very reminiscent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness). At first, each story appears relatively normal, but as the action progresses, weird things begin to happen until the climax where the three threads converge. The first half of the book takes some fortitude to wade through, but the second half gets better, finishing with plenty of action. Part of my problem with the first half of the book is that it is interlaced with a lot of Portuguese terms that take a while to understand. The other problem for me is that it was hard to see how the three storylines were going to pull together. The science-fictional MacGuffin wasn’t explicitly revealed until late in the book, so I won’t spoil it. Brasyl is a lush, literate novel that will greatly appeal to some, and be a complete bore to others.