Rasputin's Bastards Paperback – 26 Jun 2012
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About the Author
David Nickle is the author of numerous short stories and several novels, including Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, Rasputin's Bastards, and The 'Geisters. He lives in Toronto, where he works as a journalist, covering Toronto City Hall for Metroland Media Toronto.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In Rasputin's Bastards David Nickle gives us a Soviet cold war psychic program, giant squid, Russian folklore, a secret submarine base, sensory deprivation tanks, brainwashing programs and so much more. The mysteries of the plot pull you along. It's not really spoiling anything to say that almost no one in the book is who they think they are (this is strongly implied fairly early in the proceedings). The book follows an assortment of characters as they unravel their true identities (and abilities) while confronting a world-devouring entity.
I have to say that at the end of the book I had more questions than answers, which is kind of frustrating. I'm not sure if this is because I just wasn't reading carefully enough to put all the pieces of the puzzle together or if the ending is just sequel bait. Or maybe it's all supposed to be ambiguous. I wish the author had made the rules of the psychic abilities that are the core of the plot more explicit. I think that would have cleared up a lot of confusion on my part.
Regardless, the journey is enjoyable even if the destination is less than satisfying. If you're looking for something different and well-written I recommend it.
I don't know. Part of my brain says I understood the book and that it wasn't bad. Part of my brain says... do you remember anything of its plot in sufficient enough detail to tell the story to someone else? Not really.
There's a lot a memorable imagery, the giant squids being one, the acid in the bathtubs and the hidden submarine base being others, and there's moments of pure genius here, but just not enough. Reading the author's notes at the end, it's obvious that he understood this was a lot to chew on, and a lot of people helped make it more "chewable", but... I'm left with an emptiness as if I just read the shell of a great novel rather than the entirety of a great novel.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from Rasputin's Bastards. ChiZine is known for its thought provoking fiction, and this is certainly no exception. It's the 90s, and the Cold War is over, but you wouldn't know it to read this. Putting in mind the diabolically evil human experimentations of Nazi Germany, Rasputin's Bastards gives us City 512, a breeding ground for psychic espionage (usually known as astral projection.) Children have been bred to be puppets and puppeteers, but this new batch of kids is just a bit different. No longer will they be used by a group bent on world domination, and they're ready to take their freedom, at any cost. But the mother of them all has sent out a call, and is gathering all of her sleepers and dreamers together for what has been dubbed The Rapture. Long of tooth and chock full of characters, there's lots to digest here, but it offers up lots of goodies for those willing to go the distance. The author has a talent for spinning a phrase to make it much more than the sum of its parts, and surprisingly, there's quite a lot of humor as well: clever and dry, popping up just when things start to get really serious, but never disrupting the flow. The author dives deep into his main characters and paints very complete pictures, weaving the stories together amidst a surrealistic landscape of dream walkers and mind control. This reminded me very much of Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort (one of my all time favorites), and it's been quite a while since I've read a book with this much teeth. Lovely, rich writing only serves to make the creepy bits (of which there are plenty), well, even more creepy, and fans of subtle horror will find much to like in Rasputin's Bastards.
My issue is only with the actual delivery. The story is told in 1-2 page snippets dealing with various characters. Sometimes it takes most of that to orient you to what you missed while reading a previous snippet, other times you are trying frantically to remember who these people are. Nickle helps a bit with that in the form of a list of dramatis personae. Unfortunately their 'descriptions' are usually a single word that didn't help.
By the time I reached the end of the book people were starting to be more easily remembered. But it was right around that time that things started to flag. The way the story wraps up makes perfect sense given the background, but it just isn't memorable. It all happens too fast and too abruptly. I think it is the method of breaking the story into such short snippets that resulted in this.
However, it was an entertaining read, all in all. I do not regret my purchase.