All reviews copyright 1984-2019 Evelyn C. Leeper.
BRASYL by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/25/2008]
BRASYL by Ian McDonald (ISBN-13 978-1-591-02543-6, ISBN-10 1-591-02543-5) is a Hugo nominee, but it has a major strike against it--the book comes with a six-page glossary (and a suggested reading list, and a playlist of songs). It also has a long description of a soccer game (which I can't follow). The only one of the three threads it follows that I could understand was the one taking place in 1732. Maybe if I studied the glossary first.... Or maybe not. I really wanted to like this one, but it didn't happen. (In fairness, I will add that I gave up around page 60.)
To order Brasyl from amazon.com, click here.
CYBERABAD DAYS by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/09/2010]
CYBERABAD DAYS by Ian McDonald (ISBN-13 978-1-59102-699-0) is a collection of short stories (well, probably closer to novelettes) set in the world of McDonald's RIVER OF GODS, the India of 2047. India has split in several warring states. What is interesting is how McDonald has managed to address so many current issues: "Sanjeev and Robotwallah" is about combat by telepresence (not unlike the film SLEEP DEALER), class and ethnic differences in "Kyle Meets the River", genetic engineering in "The Dust Assassin", gender imbalance in "An Eligible Boy", and so on. All of these are played out in the Indianized world of the future. For example, McDonald doesn't write about "A.I.", he writes about "aeai" (just as people in India have names like "Vijay"). And people watch "tivi". McDonald manages to capture the feeling of India. He lives in Belfast; either he travels a lot or he spends his days watching Bollywood movies.
To order Cyberabad Days from amazon.com, click here.
"The Little Goddess" by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/12/2006]
"The Little Goddess" by Ian McDonald (ASIMOV'S Jun 2005) is set on the near-future Indian subcontinent. India has splintered into several nations, all jockeying for position and power. The narrator begins as a goddess, chosen after a series of spiritual tests, but this is a position that will end after a few years, not with her death, but with puberty. She then finds herself trying to become a normal person again, but having been a goddess creates certain drawbacks. I really enjoyed this, both for the story, and for the milieu. (In general, I recommend McDonald's work. I have not had a chance yet to read his Hugo-nominated novel from 2004, RIVER OF GODS, but I am looking forward to it.)
LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 01/29/2016]
LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald (ISBN 978-0-7653-7551-3) came highly recommended (I would not be surprised to see it on this year's Hugo ballot, assuming it is a valid Hugo ballot) but it had a five-page listing of the cast of characters, a three-page glossary explaining (among other things) the hierarchical and relationship terms used in the five-page listing of the cast of characters, and a two-page enumeration of the days of the month on the Hawai'ian calendar. I'm old, life is short, and a random sampling of pages confirmed my idea that this would be difficult to follow, so the book went back unread.
To order Luna from amazon.com, click here.
"The Tear" by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/29/2009]
"The Tear" by Ian McDonald (GALACTIC EMPIRES): I read this last, because it was not made available as part of the electronic Hugo packet until version 2.0. It has all the faults of Rosenbaum & Doctorow's "True Names" with none of the virtues. One problem with reading something electronically (for me, anyway) is that it is harder to skip through it and sample bits--not that a story should be read that way, but it can encourage one to stick with something because it seems to get better.
TIME WAS by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 01/25/2019]
We are in a "Golden Age" of novellas. When "short" fiction (under 40,000 words) was published exclusively in magazines, novellas were rare. Editors did not usually want to devote a large percentage of an issue to a single story. And book publishers thought their readers wanted something more substantial than a hundred-page story.
The first publisher to produce novellas in quantity was Ace books. How? Those classic "Ace Doubles". Described by Ace as two novels, each one was really two novellas (not counting the occasional story collection). These appeared in their Western line, but the science fictions ones were the real success.
Then along came small press publishers such as Subterranean Press, who were willing to publish works that weren't trilogies or doorstops. As the web expanded, various on-line publications started publishing novellas as well.
But the field seems to have really taken off with Tor Books' program of publishing trade paperback novellas at the rate of about two a month. While one may quibble that some of these are in "series" that are really longer novels broken into pieces, that's still a pretty good rate.
Luckily for me (and my pocketbook) my public library is very good about buying new science fiction in general, and new Tor novellas in particular. So on my last trip I was able to check out three novellas off the new book shelf.
In TIME WAS by Ian McDonald (ISBN 978-0-7653-9146-9) a love letter found in an obscure poetry book leads the primary narrator on a search involving mysterious vanishings, old photographs, legendary bookshops, and something mysterious under it all. The language is poetic and evocative, but because there are multiple first-person narrators, the plot is thread sometimes a bit hard to follow.
To order Time Was from amazon.com, click here.
"Vishnu at the Cat Circus" by Ian McDonald:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/25/2010]
"Vishnu at the Cat Circus" by Ian McDonald (CYBERABAD DAYS) was the one new story in the collection CYBERABAD DAYS, and frankly, the least engaging. In fact, I had started it, given up, and was about to return the book to the library when the Hugo nominations were announced. So I went back and read it, but still could not managed to get enthused about it.