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on 4 March 2017
This is a writer who I cannot praise enough, excellent prose, Quirky imagination, ignore any negative reviews, buy one and see for your self, you will not be dissapointed, unless you enjoy Clive Cussler et al . . . then this wil be too much for you.
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on 11 July 2017
I have rarely read such drivel. Clever - I don't think so. The chapter headings alone make no sense but what follows is even more stupid. Pushkin himself would turn in his grave. And to suggest that readers who can't see the brilliance of it are readers of lesser intellect is arrogant beyond belief.
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on 22 January 2013
Post-apocalyptic fiction is rarely funny but this novel is quite a treat. It's both amusing and frightening, with cynical and distrustful characters, an inventive take on dystopian literature. Set in Moscow (now called Fyodor-Kuzmichsk) around 200 years after the Blast it's a primitive society of `oldeners' or the survivors born before the event and `consequences' people with deformities born after the Blast. It's the society where books and freethinking have been outlawed since the Blast, people catch mice which form staple food and a currency, half-human, four-legged Degenenerators are used to pull sleighs and almost everybody is afraid of the monster the Slynx. The novel revolves around the life of an ordinary citizen Benedikt whose job is to hand-copy the works of the current leader/dictator Fyodor Kuzmich Glorybe. On the spur of the moment Benedikt proposes to beautiful Olenka and his life transforms when he finds out his father-in-law has a room full of books. Kudos to James Gambrell, the translator.
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on 7 October 2011
Exceptional vision, style, content, and exceptional translation. Even the cover (of the NYRB edition) is spot on.

Although set in a dystopian future, this is very much about the present day, just as it is very much about art, life, human relationships, and our perceptions of the world. Yet it never once becomes a lecture. Delivered almost as if being told on a winter's evening by the fire to a group of friends, this work manages to be serious and comic at the same time, manages to be realistic and fantastical, creates a world that has one foot in fairy tale and one foot in the world of the Gulags. And it does it seamlessly, with wit, joy, and consummate skill.

For anyone tired of the bilge that passes for literature these days in English speaking countries, I would heartily recommend this.
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on 28 February 2008
There is a wonderfully ominous air hanging over this entire work. Tolstaya describes her anti-utopian vision of a Russian future where all the culture of hundreds of years has been destroyed in 'the blast'. Obviously some thinly-veiled satirical comment here.
Mostly this book is wonderfully executed, with searingly beautiful and creepy passages offset by some real comic moments. I wasn't sure about the ending by any means, however.
Certainly one to look out for - there are some really interesting comparisons to be made between this book and Zamyatin's 'We'.
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on 23 September 2013
This book is packed full of the most marvellously funny vigniettes about human interaction ...... they are just so believable .
They are also a platform for the emergence of very clever metaphors for how totalitarianism keeps things in check , yet at the same time breeds resentment and insurrection on a minute scale......
....... very very clever.
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on 21 August 2014
My new favourite book of all time! An incredibly engaging story, though I have to admit I couldn't tear through it. I had to have pauses and think about what I'd read. It's a brilliant blend of humour, drama and thinly veiled criticism of a certain way of life. The protagonist is well-fleshed and an intriguing character, and who makes me smile whenever I think of him, though there's an excellent cast to get to know along the way.

Hats off to the translator too, it must've been difficult to capture the essence of this book from its Russian and recreate it in English. Obviously I can't comment on the original text, but this is a great and almost unheard-of rarity.
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on 22 December 2012
I read the first 75 pages and I found it impenetrable nonsense, so I threw it in the rubbish bin. I didn't see any of the merits that other critics claim for the book. Either I'm not as perceptive and intelligent as those critics, or the emperor has no clothes. I cannot see any merit in this book. Mind, don't let me put you off buying it...
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on 11 June 2007
Two hundred years ago, "The Blast" finished off civilization as we know it, and the remaining inhabitants are mutants who have lost the ability to make fire. In this novel of books, freaks and slapstick, Tolstaya explores all that is monstrous and grotesque in humanity.
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