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Ian McDonald

358 pp • ISBN: 978-1-59102-543-6
Hardcover (6" x 9") • $26
May 2007
Cover Illustration: © Stephan Martiniere

For Paperback click HERE.

Think Bladerunner in the tropics...

Be seduced, amazed, and shocked by one of the world’s greatest and strangest nations. Past, present, and future Brazil, with all its color, passion, and shifting realities, come together in a novel that is part SF, part history, part mystery, and entirely enthralling.

Three separate stories follow three main characters:

Edson is a self-made talent impresario one step up from the slums in a near future São Paulo of astonishing riches and poverty. A chance encounter draws Edson into the dangerous world of illegal quantum computing, but where can you run in a total surveillance society where every move, face, and centavo is constantly tracked?

Marcelina is an ambitious Rio TV producer looking for that big reality TV hit to make her name. When her hot idea leads her on the track of a disgraced World Cup soccer goalkeeper, she becomes enmeshed in an ancient conspiracy that threatens not just her life, but her very soul.

Father Luis is a Jesuit missionary sent into the maelstrom of 18th-century Brazil to locate and punish a rogue priest who has strayed beyond the articles of his faith and set up a vast empire in the hinterland. In the company of a French geographer and spy, what he finds in the backwaters of the Amazon tries both his faith and the nature of reality itself to the breaking point.

Three characters, three stories, three Brazils, all linked together across time, space, and reality in a hugely ambitious story that will challenge the way you think about everything.


"One of the most interesting and accomplished science fiction writers of this latter-day era, indeed maybe the most interesting and accomplished, and certainly the most culturally and musically sophisticated, the Frank Herbert, William Gibson, or arguably even Thomas Pynchon of the early 21st Century."
Asimov's Science Fiction

“Ian McDonald reaffirmed his excellence with Brasyl.…The novel is a tour de force of storytelling momentum, with a level of invention that represents a master at the top of his form. McDonald is an amazing stylist, yes, but here it’s all about motion. He does a wonderful job of including his trademark detailed and inventive description while making sure nothing in this complex, often beautiful novel is static."
—Locus Online, Best of 2007

“...the most rewarding science fiction in recent memory.”

USA Today

“Ian McDonald is hardly a hidden gem to science fiction readers by now,
but with Brasyl he has proven once again that he should be reckoned as
one of the finest of all our novelists. Brasyl fractures the Brazil we know into past, present, and near future in a brilliantly frenetic and spellbinding stew and
a dramatic tale of character and culture.”

— “Best Books of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems” (August 2007)

"Once I started reading Brasyl, I knew I would never see the world quite the same way first recommendation is this: Close your browser, put your computer to sleep, go to the bookstore, buy Brasyl, take off the dust jacket without reading it, and clear your calendar. You're in for a treat. Along with McDonald's River of Gods, it is easily one of the best books of the last 10 years."
— (selected as one of five best Sci-Fi books of 2007)

“McDonald soaks us in atmosphere….Brasyl is an impressively
energetic novel that gains a great deal from the exotic ambience of its
setting. McDonald is well worth your attention.”

Analog Science Fiction and Fact

“[Brasyl] has been receiving high praise from just about everyone since its publication. It's easy to see why. Not content with writing just one interesting story, McDonald gives us three …. [it] isn't just a parallel dimensions story;
it tackles big issues like free will and the heat death of the universe and places
them in intensely personal stories, which serves to humanize these ideas
and make them easier to understand….Brasyl rivals River of Gods story-wise
and surpasses it in science fictional terms.”


“McDonald's book is like the flipside to the famous Terry Gilliam film - a bright, wheeling carnival that plays on the 'multiverse' theory of quantum physics. It implies that, if not exactly utopian, the future might at least be fun.”
Financial Times UK

“Ian McDonald's Brasyl, with its three storylines, is as close to perfect as any novel in recent memory. It works because of great characterization, but also because McDonald envisions Brazil as a dynamic, living place that is part postmodern trash pile, part trashy reality-TV-driven ethical abyss . . . and yet also somehow spiritual…. McDonald's novel is always in motion. This movement extends through time and alternate realities in ways both wonderful and wise, as the three storylines interlock for a satisfying and often stunning conclusion. McDonald has found new myths for old places; in doing so, he has cemented his reputation as an amazing storyteller."
Washington Post Book World Sunday

“I walk away from this book convinced that [McDonald] has lived it all.
I absolutely believe that this middle-aged white Irishman is also an Indian boy, a self-absorbed Latin American woman, a Jesuit priest, and a walker between the universes. There's no other explanation….but the brilliance lies in how McDonald marries these tropes of radical Hard SF to the South American traditional themes of Latin American magical realism, melding it all together and spitting out
something that feels like it's never been done before….you just end up hating this guy for being so damn clever….experience tells me that I'm never
again going to sit on an Ian McDonald book.”

Ain’t it Cool News (

“Packing his pages with local color and big-picture speculation,
McDonald conjures three equally vivid worlds. Grade: B+”

Entertainment Weekly

"Science fiction writers, by definition, are supposed to take us to strange new worlds. Ian McDonald does this while at the same time impersonating a travel writer....If you liked River of Gods, which performed a similar mash-up of SF tropes with full cultural immersion in India, you will delight in Brasyl. And if you're a science fiction fan who has never read any Ian McDonald, well, then, clear your calendar....I always wanted to visit the future. But after Brasyl, I want to book a ticket to São Paulo also."
— Recommended
Summer Reading List (2007)

"McDonald takes on frenetic, vast, fascinating Brasil in this epic interweaving
three time-strands....McDonald's Brasyl is a magnificent place, and the motivations and possible results of the battle over the multitude of quantum universes
it posits are chilling and wonderful."

Booklist Starred Review

"British author McDonald's outstanding SF novel channels the vitality of South America's largest country into an edgy, post-cyberpunk free-for-all. McDonald sets up three separate characters in different eras — a cynical contemporary reality-TV producer, a near-future bisexual entrepreneur and a tormented 18th-century Jesuit agent. He then slams them together with the revelation that their worlds are strands of an immense quantum multiverse, and each of them is threatened by the Order, a vast conspiracy devoted to maintaining the status quo until the end of time. As McDonald weaves together the separate narrative threads, each character must choose between isolation or cooperation, and also between accepting things as they are or taking desperate action to make changes possible. River of Gods (2004), set in near-future India, established McDonald as a leading writer of intelligent, multicultural SF, and here he captures Latin America's mingled despair and hope. Chaotic, heartbreaking and joyous, this must-read teeters on the edge of melodrama, but somehow keeps its precarious balance."
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"McDonald has outdone his prodigious self. A novel that makes magic from technology, alien worlds from the everyday. A novel of swordfights and quantum physics, of sly reality-TV humor and sheer poetry. I loved these people, I rooted for them. McDonald has so many writer tricks that I could read this book a hundred times and learn something new every time."
—Cory Doctorow, co-editor,,
and author of Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present

“Having perfected a wonderful set of techniques and narrative strategies,
both panoramic and microscopic, in his last big book, River of Gods (2004)
a future history of India, McDonald employs them here. His new novel — hot and tropical and full of music (there's a suggested soundtrack in the back) — finds more than enough materials and promise in this developing land to support a conceit of cosmic magnitude. (Don't imagine you can guess the ultimate ending, because
you can't!) He manages to work simultaneously at many levels, from the intimate
and individual to the societal and universal. And he always embodies his themes in minutely particularized images and descriptions, both quotidian and fantastical.
His characters are utterly believable, grounded in their unique pasts and presents. And typical of his more stefnal [SFnal] speculations is his invention of 'Q blades,' knives with quantum edges that can sever reality.
They steal the show every time they appear.
Grade: A” 

Sci Fi Weekly

“[A] grand novel spanning centuries and realities....McDonald (Desolation Road) imagines a history of Brazil that challenges all preconceptions, and he has a gift for wordsmithing, creating lyrical passages of superb storytelling that move with the times while remaining both current and timeless. Libraries of all sizes would benefit from adding this title to their sf collections.”
Library Journal

“McDonald’s novel is a tense and edgy book, almost permanently on fast forward…
a colorful, heart-pounding thriller.”

—Prometheus, The Newsletter of the Libertarian Futurist Society
(no connection with Prometheus Books, Publishers)

“[A]n extraordinary thematic narrative that I have no doubt will be featured on many an award shortlist in the coming sentence summations cannot convey the brilliance with which McDonald blends his three narratives together — and definitely not without spoilers. [McDonald] gives Brasyl a vibrant Latin beat that pulsates persistently at the very heart of the novel.... an intensely absorbing experience.... one is left with the impression of genre novel right on the cutting edge of the quantum blades wielded as weapons within its pages, a book that loudly proclaims the arrival of the future, of designer fiction, fashioned for a premium market and of a book that surely will be hailed as loudly as McDonald’s previous works.”

"[R]ichly textured in terms of evoking the notion of Brazil as a truly alien place...
very enjoyable."


“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....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.”


Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald is the author of many science fiction novels, including River of Gods, Cyberabad Days, King of Morning, Queen of Day, Out on Blue Six, Chaga, and Kirinya. He has won the Philip K. Dick Award and the BSFA Award, been nominated for a Hugo Award and a Quill Book Award, and has several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Visit Ian McDonald online at