The latest novel from Ian McDonald comes with high hopes. His previous novel, River of Gods, was short-listed for most of the genre awards and won the British Science Fiction Association Award for novel of the year in 2004. Does his new book, Brasyl live up to the expectations? The short answer is yes. This tripartite novel is set in South America's largest country during three different eras last year, 25 years from now and 300 years before that. In the present day, a reality TV producer is looking for her next big hit (as well as what to do with her own life, but that concern is submerged so well she hardly realizes it herself). The only time she moves slowly is in the breaks between the bouts of martial arts she uses to focus and calm herself. When she learns that the goalkeeper who missed a save for Brazil in the 1950 World Cup is still alive, she immediately wants to make him the focus of a mock TV trial. In the future section, rogue physicists use quantum computers to access parallel universes and find codes to turn off radio chips in stolen goods. This pursuit isn't the main interest of the physicists, but it's the one that brings petty thief and imaginative talent scout Edson into their circle.
Moving back into the 18th century, the reader encounters Father Luis Quinn, who has been sent to locate another Jesuit priest who disappeared up the Amazon. Others have sought him but none have returned. Quinn quickly sees the truth in what everyone has been telling him that Brazil is different from anywhere else on earth. McDonald gleefully pounds away at the ways in which Brazil is unique, but he is also after larger targets: the nature of the universe, free will and predestination, what happens after we die. Brasyl is a fantastic, fast-moving thought experiment packaged as a novel, wrapped in a love story. The best line in the book? Physics is love.