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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars


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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 19 January 2014
I had to think about this book for a while before writing the review, just to mull it all over. This is an absolutely fantastic book, I had no doubt about that; but how to review and explain it to a new reader?

What do Fogg and Oblivion have in common? Not fog and oblivion; but Fogg and Oblivion. They are both `changed'; members of the Bureau, those shadowy observers who have been affected by the change generated by Vomacht's machine, enrolled in the team led by the Old Man. Found and trained in the lead up to the Second World War, a large part of this story takes place during that war; the horrors on the Eastern Front, in the depths of Germany, in Paris, across Europe and beyond. But the end of the War is just the beginning. Because for the changed, the War never ends.

The author has written comics and screenplays as well as novels, and that's what this novel `sounds' like, if I can put it like that. Actually it's a bit like watching a movie; scenes change, we see people and actions and they scroll before us. Indeed the novel shifts between scenes; 164 of them in all. At first, the method of narrative is short, blocky with no speech marks around speech. It took me a few pages of this to get it straightened out in my head, but then it just seemed to flow, like it was visual, unfolding into the scenes without the need for such things. Let me give you an example:

Oblivion nods. As though he understood more than the words. Your smokescreen? he says, softly.
- It's just habit, Fogg says.
Oblivion nods. I remember.
- Old tradecraft, Fogg says. Sounds sheepish.

I absolutely loved this book; it was clever, ambitious, stunningly original; a brilliantly clever weave of fact and `maybe' fact/fiction - who knows for sure? But it's breathtakingly well constructed, and totally enthralling. I was drawn into it and held enthralled in the story till the last page, sorry when it ended. This would have to be one of the top 10 best novels I've read in the last twelve months.
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The first thing to address reviewing this book - the unavoidable, obvious, distinctive thing - is the style. When I was 30 or 40 pages in, I nearly gave up with it. The way it's written is so distinctive, so odd. No speech marks. Present tense. Laconic. like this:

The Old Man says, Where is the boy?
- He's waiting, Deutsch says.
- Then let's pick up the pace, shall we?

Hovering over all is an unseen "we". We see this or hear that. "We" is a jaded, slightly cynical voice. Seen it all, or most of it. Heard nearly as much. It's almost the voice of an omnipotent narrator, but not quite. "We" sometimes shrugs, not totally sure about events, but in charge, all the same.

It was all madly annoying to me, at first. But I carried on, and I'm glad I did, because fairly soon, everything clicked and I wasn't enjoying the book despite the style, the voice, but through the style and voice. There's something about it that makes the whole span of the story - with all its hops back and to, from pre war England to the Eastern Front, to Russia, to various murky cold war corners, to a shadowy secret Bureau in the present day - all present at once. It's like a non-visual comic book, perhaps, or maybe that's too pretentious. Whatever, it makes this story.

And what a story it is. Wrapped round the perhaps hoary conventions of a Smiley-esque espionage plot - the faithful servant not allowed to depart in peace, but called back by the Old Man for one final debrief - we have a story of love, of rivalry, but above all of strangeness. Fogg - the hero, if the book has one: it's a moot point - is one of the "changed" - superheroes, created by a freak event in 1932. Throughout the world, a quantum wave has produced monsters, men and women with bizarre abilities: to wind back time, summon up ice and snow, or just make things disappear. Fighting on all sides during the Second World war and in those murky corners after, they struggle to make sense of what they are. Not ageing, but growing weary, they look back to the event that made them and wonder how it began.

The concept gives Tidhar scope to range all over the place, leaping decades in a single bound to place some vignette in 1946 Berlin of at the heart of darkness in Vietnam, before jumping back - or forward again, his narrative only fixed in that it keeps returning to that last debrief, to Scheesturm and to Sommertag.

This is so much better than the last book I read by Tidhar (The Bookman. It may not be to everyone's taste, but if you're wavering and thinking of giving up, please just do keep going.

Excellent.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 November 2013
**3.5 stars simply for concept and story**

I didnt finish this one, got halfway then realised I was just not with it - The writing style just didnt click with me. HOWEVER the story concept is terrific, and I liked the characters. But the purely descriptive prose, with even the speech being written as description, as an example :

Quote

The other says, there's a girl in there, she can make fire. Clicks his fingers. Says, Like that. Must be handy Fogg says. The other shrugs. Takes a drag. Blows out smoke. Fogg,idly,makes it into tiny airships that burst apart. Girl in here she can spit at stuff. Break it. Like she's firing bullets, the other says around the cigarette.

End Quote

just did not click with my reading brain. Do not let this put you off if you like the sound of the tale however - this is a purely subjective thing for me.. the next reader will adore it. There is nothing actually "wrong" with this book just was not for me.

Happy Reading Folks!
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on 21 April 2014
At first this book was a real struggle, i lost count of the number of times I nearly put it down in the first 30 pages. The constant time jumping of the narrative and the unorthodox punctuation, along with his writing style really didn't click with me at all.

But then, without really realising it it drew me in. A bit like a black and white film (or movie for you Americans!) the points which annoyed me at first simply faded, no longer relevant. The story drew me in, the characters were great - the relationship between Fog and Oblivion is subtle and believable.

Set WWII and its aftermath, it provides a brilliant backdrop to which the individual stories of the characters play out. Obviously things have had to be changed to allow inclusion of these 'super men', but wherever possible Lavie Tidhar has preserved the real life characters and events that happened, and he has done it very well indeed.

If you can get past the initial difference of the writing (and please do) sit down in a quiet corner and enjoy this book. I am glad I did.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 March 2015
This is an absolutely fantastic book, I had no doubt about that; but how to review and explain it to a new reader?

What do Fogg and Oblivion have in common? Not fog and oblivion; but Fogg and Oblivion. They are both `changed'; members of the Bureau, those shadowy observers who have been affected by the change generated by Vomacht's machine, enrolled in the team led by the Old Man. Found and trained in the lead up to the Second World War, a large part of this story takes place during that war; the horrors on the Eastern Front, in the depths of Germany, in Paris, across Europe and beyond. But the end of the War is just the beginning. Because for the changed, the War never ends.

The author has written comics and screenplays as well as novels, and that's what this novel `sounds' like, if I can put it like that. Actually it's a bit like watching a movie; scenes change, we see people and actions and they scroll before us. Indeed the novel shifts between scenes; 164 of them in all. At first, the method of narrative is short, blocky with no speech marks around speech. It took me a few pages of this to get it straightened out in my head, but then it just seemed to flow, like it was visual, unfolding into the scenes without the need for such things. Let me give you an example:

Oblivion nods. As though he understood more than the words. Your smokescreen? he says, softly.
- It's just habit, Fogg says.
Oblivion nods. I remember.
- Old tradecraft, Fogg says. Sounds sheepish.

I absolutely loved this book; it was clever, ambitious, stunningly original; a brilliantly clever weave of fact and `maybe' fact/fiction - who knows for sure? But it's breathtakingly well constructed, and totally enthralling. I was drawn into it and held enthralled in the story till the last page, sorry when it ended. This would have to be one of the top 10 best novels I've read in a long time.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 March 2015
This is an absolutely fantastic book, I had no doubt about that; but how to review and explain it to a new reader?

What do Fogg and Oblivion have in common? Not fog and oblivion; but Fogg and Oblivion. They are both `changed'; members of the Bureau, those shadowy observers who have been affected by the change generated by Vomacht's machine, enrolled in the team led by the Old Man. Found and trained in the lead up to the Second World War, a large part of this story takes place during that war; the horrors on the Eastern Front, in the depths of Germany, in Paris, across Europe and beyond. But the end of the War is just the beginning. Because for the changed, the War never ends.

The author has written comics and screenplays as well as novels, and that's what this novel `sounds' like, if I can put it like that. Actually it's a bit like watching a movie; scenes change, we see people and actions and they scroll before us. Indeed the novel shifts between scenes; 164 of them in all. At first, the method of narrative is short, blocky with no speech marks around speech. It took me a few pages of this to get it straightened out in my head, but then it just seemed to flow, like it was visual, unfolding into the scenes without the need for such things. Let me give you an example:

Oblivion nods. As though he understood more than the words. Your smokescreen? he says, softly.
- It's just habit, Fogg says.
Oblivion nods. I remember.
- Old tradecraft, Fogg says. Sounds sheepish.

I absolutely loved this book; it was clever, ambitious, stunningly original; a brilliantly clever weave of fact and `maybe' fact/fiction - who knows for sure? But it's breathtakingly well constructed, and totally enthralling. I was drawn into it and held enthralled in the story till the last page, sorry when it ended. This would have to be one of the top 10 best novels I've read in a long time.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 March 2015
This is an absolutely fantastic book, I had no doubt about that; but how to review and explain it to a new reader?

What do Fogg and Oblivion have in common? Not fog and oblivion; but Fogg and Oblivion. They are both `changed'; members of the Bureau, those shadowy observers who have been affected by the change generated by Vomacht's machine, enrolled in the team led by the Old Man. Found and trained in the lead up to the Second World War, a large part of this story takes place during that war; the horrors on the Eastern Front, in the depths of Germany, in Paris, across Europe and beyond. But the end of the War is just the beginning. Because for the changed, the War never ends.

The author has written comics and screenplays as well as novels, and that's what this novel `sounds' like, if I can put it like that. Actually it's a bit like watching a movie; scenes change, we see people and actions and they scroll before us. Indeed the novel shifts between scenes; 164 of them in all. At first, the method of narrative is short, blocky with no speech marks around speech. It took me a few pages of this to get it straightened out in my head, but then it just seemed to flow, like it was visual, unfolding into the scenes without the need for such things. Let me give you an example:

Oblivion nods. As though he understood more than the words. Your smokescreen? he says, softly.
- It's just habit, Fogg says.
Oblivion nods. I remember.
- Old tradecraft, Fogg says. Sounds sheepish.

I absolutely loved this book; it was clever, ambitious, stunningly original; a brilliantly clever weave of fact and `maybe' fact/fiction - who knows for sure? But it's breathtakingly well constructed, and totally enthralling. I was drawn into it and held enthralled in the story till the last page, sorry when it ended. This would have to be one of the top 10 best novels I've read in a long time.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 March 2015
This is an absolutely fantastic book, I had no doubt about that; but how to review and explain it to a new reader?

What do Fogg and Oblivion have in common? Not fog and oblivion; but Fogg and Oblivion. They are both `changed'; members of the Bureau, those shadowy observers who have been affected by the change generated by Vomacht's machine, enrolled in the team led by the Old Man. Found and trained in the lead up to the Second World War, a large part of this story takes place during that war; the horrors on the Eastern Front, in the depths of Germany, in Paris, across Europe and beyond. But the end of the War is just the beginning. Because for the changed, the War never ends.

The author has written comics and screenplays as well as novels, and that's what this novel `sounds' like, if I can put it like that. Actually it's a bit like watching a movie; scenes change, we see people and actions and they scroll before us. Indeed the novel shifts between scenes; 164 of them in all. At first, the method of narrative is short, blocky with no speech marks around speech. It took me a few pages of this to get it straightened out in my head, but then it just seemed to flow, like it was visual, unfolding into the scenes without the need for such things. Let me give you an example:

Oblivion nods. As though he understood more than the words. Your smokescreen? he says, softly.
- It's just habit, Fogg says.
Oblivion nods. I remember.
- Old tradecraft, Fogg says. Sounds sheepish.

I absolutely loved this book; it was clever, ambitious, stunningly original; a brilliantly clever weave of fact and `maybe' fact/fiction - who knows for sure? But it's breathtakingly well constructed, and totally enthralling. I was drawn into it and held enthralled in the story till the last page, sorry when it ended. This would have to be one of the top 10 best novels I've read in a long time.
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on 6 November 2013
Where do heroes come from? How are friendships made? What makes us human? These are the questions that Lavie Tidhar grapples with, in this story of friendship writ large upon a canvas that stretches from the 1930s to the present day, in a slightly alternate world where superheroes exists, but heroics mean different things to different people. Choices made in the second world war resonate down through a series of brilliantly detailed cold war scenes, ultimately wrestling with the idea of the self. This is a big, ambitious book that manages to deliver. Expect nominations, awards, and Tidharian grumbling speeches.
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on 9 April 2015
Brilliant take on the superhero genre and much more besides, worthwhile for fans across the spectrum really, not just SFF.

It's got the same hypnagogic style as Osama and the writing is every bit as good, but there's more plot here and one that stretches through the decades of the last violent century. We jump back and forward, move between wars and continents, but there's a deft hand at the wheel keeping everything on track and in balance and Fogg's story unfolds.

Given I'm not the greatest fan of the superhero genre, this worked very well for me because it's not an action-heavy powers-fest - but I doubt hardcore fans would have any complaint at this clever handling. This should appeal across the spectrum, from serious literary to serious geek, and it's good enough to hold it's head high wherever it's placed.
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