Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Episode 702: Okay, Am An Ian McDonald Convert

Stayed up last night to finish reading Ian McDonald's Brasyl, which was on the longlist for the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing in 2009. Compared to River Of Gods, Brasyl feels like a tighter novel, even if the intertwining of the three narrative threads still only becomes truly apparent pretty near the end, as in River Of Gods. I remember that one of the reservations I had about River Of Gods was the Indian setting, and whether this was just a little too calculated. Well, the Brazilian setting this time felt completely right, and for what it's worth, McDonald does come across as the sort of author who does his homework. There was mention in the novel of loop quantum gravity, string theory's competitor in the field of quantum gravity as a theory unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics. Or to (over)simplify, a Theory of Everything that will explain both the macrocosm and the microcosm. In short, the Holy Grail of physics. I'd have liked a bit more of the science stuff, à la Greg Egan's novels, which for me strike that remarkable balance between detailed scientific explanations and interesting narratives. The ending of Brasyl is sufficiently open-ended to leave room for a sequel, and I think the story deserves one, if only to further explore the contest between those who wish to destroy the multiverse and those who wish to preserve it. Surprisingly, the good guys aren't who you'd expect. They've concluded we live in a simulation that uses the multiverse as a quantum computer, in an age when the multiverse is dying, but they hope that the energy running the simulation could be enough to create another Big Bang. Now all this only becomes clear in the last couple of pages, so you tell me, is there room for a sequel to explore all this further?

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