October 20, 2008 | Comments ()

By Brian Prisco | Books | October 20, 2008 |


And thus we come to one of the fatal dangers of the Cannonball Read, the overlap. It would be virtually impossible for me to improve upon the excellent job that Jennifer did on reviewing Brasyl for Pajiba, so I’m not going to try. I’m just going to add my own whole-hearted thumbs-up, and express my own personal delight at reading this novel.

When I went to Brazil for my cousin’s wedding, an experience I’ve already related far too many times, I was determined not to become one of those annoying tourists. Not the type who go to a country and demand that it behave as their own (why the hell don’t nobody speak English? where’s the McDonald’s? I need some real food), but the kind who’s worse — the kind who come back and absorb so much of the foreign culture that they act like they’re from that country. I refer mostly to Americans who go to Europe and the return referring to America as the States, and then talk about how much SUPERIOR the culture is. Why did you come back? You can’t tell me it was because your fucking cube farm job was that precious? Why not buy a villa and never return? That’s my advice.

However, I wanted to be Brazilian. I spent nine whirlwind days in Brazil on Copacabana Beach and in the mountains of Itapaiva, and I wanted to live there. We were treated like royalty, and I absorbed a fair share of the culture. I wanted to learn capoeira, and still do. But it’s motherfucking breakdance fighting! Sure, tae kwon do is fucking balls, but do you do one handed au cartwheels and jam out to bongo drums while trying to spin kick the shit out of people? There’s a reason Eddie Gordo is the best character in Tekken. Second, they have the churrascuria. Basically, it’s an all you can eat meat buffet where guys come around with skewers of fire-roasted meat on swords and you eat until you explode. Third, the television programming was fucking hilarious. They basically do a telenovela for a whole year, with soap opera scheduling. No matter how popular or well done, they end it at the end of the year and do a totally new one. No third season lag. They just make a totally new show. Fourth, samba carnaval. They spend a week essentially drunk, scantily-clad, and dancing in the streets. It’s like Mardi Gras, only with less lopsided tits and more transvestites. You tell me I made the wrong decision.

Anyway, Brasyl is three different stories, all of which are amazing on their own, but as they slowly weave together, you’re drawn in. I think I dug it more because I understood a lot more of the crazy lingo they were dropping. Much of the first storyline, which takes place in the future, involves telenovelas and capoeira. I could follow it, because I know the terms for the moves, and could picture them in my head. I could see how it would be a little Trainspotting for folks, and glossary of terms or not, you could easily get confused. The second story line, which takes place about 25 years in the future, is much like this. They use their own patois and slang, and it really gets crazy. On top of this, truly the weirdest shit occurs during the futuristic portion of the story, and it’s probably the most difficult to get your head wrapped around. The third storyline takes place over one-hundred and fifty years in the past, and I felt was the strongest story. It involves an Irish priest seeking penance, who also happens to be skilled with the sword.

But again, I don’t want to delve more into the plot which was already covered aptly by Jennifer. The portion of the novel I really dug was the parts about quantum physics. I wish I had a better understanding of quantum study. Are there any relatively well written books on quantum physics? Something a little pop-science. Because I cannot follow something too technical. My brain starts to drool and I lose vision in one eye. But it’s such an interesting topic. It’s one of those things where I feel that the farther you go out into science, the more it starts to resemble religion.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. You can read more about it, here.

brasyl.jpg
100 Books in One Year #15: Brasyl by Ian McDonald

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | October 20, 2008 | Comments ()



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