McDonald, Ian. Brasyl (sic). Amherst, NY: Pry, "an imprint of Prometheus Books," 2007.
Speculative, philosophical, and arguably theological SF using the many worlds/multiverse/world-as-information hypotheses. A key formulation in the novel includes as part of a long stretch of exposition, "Everything is connected information in time, and we have a word for that: it's computer. The universe is one huge quantum computer; all matter, all energy, everything we are, are programs running on this computer. […R]eality is a multiverse, so these computations are being done in many universes at once, so in fact all the multverse is one vast quantum computer. Everything is information. Everything is … thought" (251; "Our Lady of the Golden Frog" chapter; apparent ellipsis mark in original). In the urban areas of near-future Brazil, there is constant surveillance by miniaturized CCTV and drones called "the Angels of Perpetual Surveillance": "Like angels, the robot planes fly endlessly; they need, and can, never touch the ground again; like angels, they see into the hearts and intentions of men" (24; "Our Lady of Production Values"). Note also combination of low-tech and very high tech in "Q" knives, each with "quantum blade," which will slice through anything, and keep on going — and arrowheads made with the same technology and used with a high-tech bow: "an appallingly beautiful piece of killing gear" (309; "Our Lady of All Worlds").
Reviewed by Jason W. Ellis, SFRA Review #281, July/Aug/ Sept 2007: pp. 36-37.
Ian McDonald hacks reality in his latest novel, Brasyl. It’s a postcolonial cyberpunk SF story that goes far beyond [THE MATRIX|The Matrix]]. Instead of humanity being plugged into a network run by a powerful machine intelligence, humanity and what we believe to be reality are merely bits flipping in the grand simulation memory of the largest of all possible computers: the multiverse, parallel universes amounting to the sum of all possibilities. The author combines Nick Bostrom’s philosophy of living within a computer simulation and Stephen Wolfram’s mathematical cellular automata with the latest developments in quantum theory to enact this paradigm shifting SF story. * * *
The novel’s cyberpunk connections come from the technology employed by particularly characters. The parallel 2032 world is featured as one vision of a cyberpunk world. [The character] Edson has a pair of I-shades, which are heads-up display computers that connect to a network of overflowing information more vast than our current Internet but recalling the ubiquity of information in John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider (1975). His dead girlfriend’s doppelganger, the “other” Fia, comes from a parallel world where computers are integrated into our flesh as animated full body tattoos. Edson’s Brazil is a world of complete surveillance and RFID chips that give away one’s movements and habits much like Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002), unless of course you’re as resourceful and enterprising as Edson. However, McDonald breaks with earlier cyberpunk stories in that the quantum computers Edson steals are tools used for various real-world purposes rather than eye candy.
RDE, 05-06/VII/11, expanded 29Dec20