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Ice (New York Review Books) Hardcover – 11 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (11 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171950
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171950
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.5 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,048,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Vladimir Sorokin was born in a small town outside of Moscow in 1955. He trained as an engineer at the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas, but turned to art and writing, becoming a major presence in the Moscow underground of the 1980s. His work was banned in the Soviet Union, and his first novel, The Queue, was published by the famed émigré dissident Andrei Sinyavksy in France in 1983. In 1992, Sorokin's Collected Stories was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize; in 1999, the publication of the controversial novel Blue Lard, which included a sex scene between clones of Stalin and Khrushchev, led to public demonstrations against the book and to demands that Sorokin be prosecuted as a pornographer; in 2001, he received the Andrei Biely Award for outstanding contributions to Russian literature. Sorokin is also the author of the screenplays for the movies Moscow, The Kopeck, and 4, and of the libretto for Leonid Desyatnikov's The Children of Rosental, the first new opera to be commissioned by the Bolshoi Theater since the 1970s. He has written eleven novels, as well as numerous plays and short stories, and his work has been translated throughout the world. He lives in Moscow.

Jamey Gambrell is a writer on Russian art and culture. Her translations include Marina Tsvetaeva's Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917–1922, a volume of Aleksandr Rodchenko's writings, Experiments for the Future, and many of the stories included in Tatyana Tolstaya's White Walls. Her translation of Vladimir Sorokin's Ice has recently been published by NYRB Classics.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Feb. 2007
Format: Hardcover
And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?"

These questions from the Book of Job serve as an appropriate theme for introducing Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin's novel "Ice". Sorokin's work is well-known in Russia and much of Europe. One of his earlier books, Blue Lard, was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a Russian nationalist group claiming that his depiction of `intimate relations' between a clone of Stalin and a clone of Khrushchev was pornographic and defamed the Russian people. Not unexpectedly the suit resulted in a tremendous increase in sales.

To my knowledge, Ice, is the first book of Sorokin that has been translated into English. The first volume of a planned trilogy, Ice is born in violence. A group of blonde-haired, blue-eyed thugs (or so they seem) roaming the streets of Moscow find and kidnap blonde-haired, blue-eyed strangers, tie them up and hammer them mercilessly with a hammer made out of ice. The attackers listen to their victims. They are asked to speak "with their hearts". Most of their victims simply die from the beatings. But every now and again they find someone who manages to gurgle out a word from their heart. They are released and processed into a small, very secret brotherhood of other heart-seekers.

Part I of Ice introduces the reader to the `heart people" and the rather violent method of finding and recruiting new members. Part II provides the back story. In 1908 a large meteor crashed into the tundra of a remote part of Siberia. (Curiously this event also plays a role in Thomas Pynchon's new book "Against the Day"). The meteor consists of a huge piece of intergalactic ice, the "hoary frost of heaven" perhaps.
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By D. Humphries on 31 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
ICE is the second book by Sorokin to be translated into English, after his early work 'The Queue', a short novel about a soviet bread queue in which we have dozens of voices and drifting conversations but no interlocutors, which was given a tiny print run. Propelled to fame by his brush with the law over his portrayal of Stalin and Krushchev engaging in anal sex, ICE is Sorokin's first major translation. Sorokin's biggest preoccupation is the violence of mankind, and how this transmits through all aspects of culture. ICE is the story of a cult who batter ice hammers against victim's chests until the heart either begins to tell its real name - or the victim dies. But Sorokin is not an ordinary story teller; he is a purveyor of the absurd or grotesque. This cult and its role in Russian culture is presented throughout the book as a series of stories and vignettes, not in the form of a traditional plot, and the reader absorbs the idea as Sorokin explores it. Visionary and unsettling, it is a great read. Sorokin is reminiscent of his contemporary Pelevin, but more unsettling, more extreme, more violent. I look forward to translations of his most grotesque works such as 'Four Heroes'. Well worth a read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"Out of whose womb came the ice? ___ 16 Feb. 2007
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?"

These questions from the Book of Job serve as an appropriate theme for introducing Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin's novel "Ice". Sorokin's work is well-known in Russia and much of Europe. One of his earlier books, Blue Lard, was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a Russian nationalist group claiming that his depiction of `intimate relations' between a clone of Stalin and a clone of Khrushchev was pornographic and defamed the Russian people. Not unexpectedly the suit resulted in a tremendous increase in sales.

To my knowledge, Ice, is the first book of Sorokin that has been translated into English. The first volume of a planned trilogy, Ice is born in violence. A group of blonde-haired, blue-eyed thugs (or so they seem) roaming the streets of Moscow find and kidnap blonde-haired, blue-eyed strangers, tie them up and hammer them mercilessly with a hammer made out of ice. The attackers listen to their victims. They are asked to speak "with their hearts". Most of their victims simply die from the beatings. But every now and again they find someone who manages to gurgle out a word from their heart. They are released and processed into a small, very secret brotherhood of other heart-seekers.

Part I of Ice introduces the reader to the `heart people" and the rather violent method of finding and recruiting new members. Part II provides the back story. In 1908 a large meteor crashed into the tundra of a remote part of Siberia. (Curiously this event also plays a role in Thomas Pynchon's new book "Against the Day"). The meteor consists of a huge piece of intergalactic ice, the "hoary frost of heaven" perhaps. The group uses the ice to break the ice that covers the hearts of humanity and has turned humanity into a collection of empty shells. Interestingly, the secret group's members in the 1930s and 1940s include high ranking members of the USSR's KGB (or NKVD) and Hitler's Gestapo. It is no surprise that Aryan features are a prerequisite for membership in the brotherhood. Part III is a rather bizarre look at a world in which "Ice" kits are sold that allow individual to perform their own self-awakening. Part III consists of testimonials of people who have used the kit.

I raced through "Ice" in one sitting but remain ambivalent about how I feel about it. I could not put the book down once I started it, but at the same time the book was more than a bit discomforting. Ultimately, Vladimir Sorokin's "Ice" is not a novel designed to warm the hearts of the reader. I've seen some reviews that compare him to Gogol and others to French-author Michel Houellebecq. I think, of the two, that the comparison to Houellebecq is the more apt. They each do an excellent job of painting a grim picture of individuals and societies as an example of both moral and physical decay. I finished "ICE" thinking that the story really had not even started, that there was a lot more for Sorokin to say. The Books of Psalms asks: "He casteth forth his ice like morsels. Who can stand before his cold?" Psalms. It will be interesting to see where Sorokin takes his ice and his cold in the next two volumes.

Highly recommended despite, or perhaps because of, the discomfort engendered by reading it. L. Fleisig
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The best contemporary Russian writer 19 April 2006
By S. Rosenaur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This one has no ritualistic hyperviolence, anal sex among Communist party leaders, chapters of nearly impenetrable dialogue in "New Chinese". Ice ("Liod") is the slickest, least formally challenging and graphically brutal book so far, that is nevertheless quite mysanthropic at its core. Sorokin is actually using a "Star Wars"-type of a marketing tool: initially releasing part 2 of a trilogy (the prequel, "Put' Bro" was released in Russia a year later, and last year saw the release of the entire trilogy, concluded by the part 3, "23000")

I have not read any of Sorokin's books in english translation, so cannot vouch that it does justice to the originals. He is a very powerful contemporary Russian writer and definitely deserves attention of those who enjoy the works of Pelevin and WM Burroughs.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Very much in the middle of the contemporary Russian trends 23 Mar. 2007
By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Sorokin's "Ice" is a good representative of a modern trend in Russian literature and film.

The novel starts with the scene in Moscow, where several, so it appears, thugs, performing a sadistic experiment: they maniacally hit a blond and blue-eyed man on the chest with a hammer made of a block of ice.

As it turns out, the purpose is to find another member of a secret community, who can be recognized because he would cry out the name of his heart, his true name, after being hit with ice. And not just the ordinary ice, but only the ice from the remains of the Tunguska meteorite, the ideal cosmic substance... There are exactly twenty-three thousand of brothers and sisters, dispersed around the globe and when all would be found, they will rule the world and get it to the end.

The book is interesting and dynamically written, although the plot gets a little predictable after a while. There are chosen people in hiding, forming a secret society opposing the present reality, there are hints of a new dictatorship, a Russian curse, there is brutality and money-oriented attitude of the ordinary people who want to survive in the changed world around them. The mix of science-fiction and contemporary Russian reality is a common theme exploited by many authors. I think Pielewin in "Generation"P"" did it better, because he managed to shed some light on a real problem, Russia dealing with capitalism and consumer society. The classic of this genre is, of course, the movie "Nightwatch" ("Nocznyj dozor"), a must-see for everyone.

Having said that, I would like to add that Sorokin writes skillfully and the novel reads well. The descriptions of the mystic experiences of "heart to heart" love between brothers and sisters are quite remarkable. "Ice" is a good book, it is just not a new subject (except for being a satire on a modern sectarian language) and there were others who did it better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very strange 17 Jun. 2010
By doc peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't quite know what to think about Vladimir Sorokin's _Ice_. It is strange (very strange), without much catharsis, and a convoluted story line. On the other hand, I couldn't put it down once I began reading it, and I remain wrestling with the implications and meaning of the story after reading it - to me, indications of a superior story.

The first third of the novel involves fair-haired Russians being kidnapped and stuck on the chest with a large hammer made of ice - most die from the experience, but some have their heart "speak" to those who perpetrate the violence. The middle third is a flashback - the story of one of those who survived the hammering by ice, and provides some explanation to the process. The book concludes with new technologies and techniques to "awaken hearts" in post-Soviet Russia. At the center of the conflict are alien beings "trapped" in human ("meat sacks") bodies, awaiting to be released, and can only be so by having their hearts awoken.

The writing style is odd, although perhaps this is a function of translation (my Russian has degraded to the point of making the effort Herculean to attempt to read it in the original) and the purpose and point is obscure. Yet still I remain pondering what Sorokin is telling me through this very odd story. Were it not for this nagging, burning question (is it a commentary on Russians as a culture? On post-Soviet life? On the human condition in general? Or is it simply a very strange, open-ended story?) I would give it three stars. That I am so delighfully confounded, I grant it a fourth.
Stark and Gritty, Original, Russian SciFi 21 Mar. 2007
By Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
ICE by Vladimir Sorokin (Author), Jamey Gambrell (Translator) is original, contemporary SciFi.

Dark Humor, witty, insightful. Original concept. Ancient alien life-forms, incarnated as humans, once awakened by the alien ICE, view regular humans as "living dead" and "meat machines." The characters are complex and conflicted. When you want to sympathize with someone, you see their dark side; when you want to hate someone, you learn about their own suffering.

There are subtle parallels, that are really antitheses, to evangelical Christian beliefs: quasi-spirituality and enlightenment are achieved through a heart-awakening, accompanied by grieving over the past (akin to repentance), communication via secret heart-language, and a 'bearing witness' with others of their kind (called 'brothers' and 'sisters'), a mission to 'awaken' or convert others, viewing the unconverted or regular humans as 'living dead' (cf. Christian doctrine of unconverted as being 'spiritually dead'), and the ultimate goal of transforming the entire world into rapturous light. But make no mistake. Although the name 'Jesus' appears often (just as often, as 'Jeezus'), there is no Christianity here. The basis for reality and hope are in the ICE. In fact, this is almost anti-Christian. And the way the ICE members waste the lives of normal humans, it makes vampires look tame by contrast. The Aryan implications also make one wonder whether this is subtle endorsement of Nazi-ism.

Translated from the original Russian into English, sometimes the colloquialisms are a bit overdone, almost to the point of comedy. It conjures the image of comic book or graphic novel, or a film noir. This causes some slight bumps in the flow, and even a few chuckles, but overall it keeps up a quick pace.

The format is also unusual. Presented in four parts, with each part giving a different type of focus. Part 1 is the main story of some main converts, Part 2 is the 'back story' of the most enlightened ICE member and leader, Part 3 is a list or catalog of other characters, or converts, in sort of journal-like entries of their conversion experiences with the ICE machine. Finally, Part 4, which is merely a few pages brief, seems to be a cliff-hanger lead-in to an implied sequel.

There is stark description of Russian and German life (the latter mainly during WW2, including graphic violence), government and military corruption, and black market. The details and descriptions are used skillfully and never slow the pace. Well-written, unique, promising a fascinating sequel, whenever that is offered. However, once the ultimate goal of the ICE members is reached, if that is indeed the reality, then it would end any possibility of future volumes in the saga. (I don't think that is a spoiler.)

So, is this juxtaposition of tone an intended contrast for tension? Is it an inherent confusion in the concept of the story? Or does it reflect a somewhat awkward translation? Whatever the case, this is worth a read to get an impression of Russian-style scifi.
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