Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hardspear Reviews Audible Book Brasyl by Ian McDonald

Complex Cyber Punk Quantum Romp through a Multiverse Past, Present & Future Brazil. 

Have you ever eaten an exotic dish and bitten into a cardamom pod?  If you have, you’ll know that it literally explodes with mysteriously complex flavours and sexy, heady perfumes.  Reading, or listening, to Brasyl by Ian McDonald induces a much similar sense.

There are three main threads in the book, each with a distinct time- and geographical setting.  The three threads each also follow a different protagonist.  In the present (2006) we have Marcelina Hoffman, a rather shallow, Brazilian martial arts arse kicking producer of trashy reality programmes for a controversial TV Station in Rio de Janeiro.  The second protagonist, Edson Jesus Oliveira de Freitas lives in a near-futuristic (2032) Big Brother-esque Sao Paulo.  Edson goes by a few different aliases and his pursuits, monetary and otherwise, are not always strictly legal.  Despite this, Edson is a very likeable character.  Edson and some of the other characters in his part of the universe are near Anime-like in appearance and conduct – slender boyish boys and girlish girls or girlish boys and boyish girls, you know what I mean.  In 1732 the Black half-Irish Jesuit Priest Father Luis Quinn, a learned man of strong character wades through the Amazonian rivers and rain forests, his mission turning out quite differently from that which he first anticipated…

Cyberpunk, biopunk, alternate history, quantum computers, travel between multiple universes, Doppelgรคngers, wearable computers, mind expanding drugs are all mixed with the wonderful and strange sights, colours, sounds & smells of a bygone, contemporary and an imaginary yet to come Brazil as the three threads starts intersecting.  Myth, fact, religion, sexuality - this is modern speculative fiction at its best!

This is the first Audible Book I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea, listened to where the voice actor is British.  For us non-British English speakers from South Africa, North America, Australia & New Zealand there is a certain charm to British English.  Nigel Pilkington’s narration lends integrity to both the text and characters.  I looked up his profile on the web and found that he was born in Lancashire.  One can hear the Northern England influence in his accent, but it is not too strong and I had no difficulty following the narration.  He does however use different accents for different characters and for the different strands in the book.  (It is very quaint the way he – as Edson - drops t’s, elongates vowels and puts k’s after words ending in –ng.)  Mr. Pilkington reads Brasyl with flair and fluency, his voice matching the said sights, colours, sounds & smells of the prose word for word.

The only reason why I gave ‘Overall Experience’ 4 instead of 5, is:  I gather in the printed form of this book there is additional content which include a glossary with Brazilian Portuguese slang and other unfamiliar words & terms.  It also includes a playlist, suggested reading etc.  Audible should find a way to make this available to anyone who purchases this recording.