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2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although translated from its original Russian, the translator has chosen to use much trans-Atlantic vernacular and it consequently gives the unfortunate impression of trying to reside in two opposing worlds at the one time. That one property makes it very difficult for the reader to feel quite at comfort when reading the story - are you in Russia or in down-town Boston or New York? I don't know what is 'hip' language in Moscow or St Petersburg but it certainly isn't that in any US city.

Mostly a tale of young love, which for a somewhat old f**t like myself, is a little beyond my scope. I have read very few Russian novels, some classics aside, and do not expect to read too many more.

The book retains what I presume to be original illustrations, unusual for any modern novel, but some include Cyrillic graphics which may be meaningful to a few in the West but certainly not to the majority.

Not a compelling read for me, although it may be for the younger generations with some Russian connection, however slight. It is just too quirky!
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on 3 February 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very Russian 'arty' book and you have to appreciate the genre to get the most from this sort of literature. So if a very European existential angst involving staring for long periods of time at walls thinking deep intra-dimensional thoughts is not your thing...

...But if it is, there are some treasures to be found in here. It's a fascinating glimpse into the artistry of young urban Russians and if you allow yourself, you can luxuriate in the pretensions and observations outlined here.

At times I wondered whether the translation from the Russian perhaps detracted from what was actually trying to be said but no matter, on the whole the novel sets out to do what it intends with a fair amount of verve. As I said though, you have to be into this sort of book to fully enjoy it- I guess it's a niche novel in that way- but if you want to sound cool at your next contemporary slam poetry meeting knocking back the neat Russian spirit, this may well be for you.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A strange novel, which has little new to say. It might have gone down well in the late 60's in downtown San Francisco, with everyone nodding wisely at descriptions of the individual as "the eternal mark of a million coincidences". Being high on LSD this might have had the "Wow" factor then , but of little new relevance today. Is the protagonist Max really profound or just high on drugs? Hypersensitivity to life's stimuli in the novel gets just that bit boring after a while, and is not clever.

The various blurbs and spiel on the frontispiece I found confusing and misleading, as they certainly don't resonate with my experience of the novel. Perhaps I am not intellectual enough to appreciate them, but to me they don't relate at all.

The quasi-Rorschach black and white images interspersed throughout the book suggest an attempt to give a psychological slant to the content in terms of "What is reality?". Perception of reality is indeed one of asking questions such as, "What are we really seeing?" "Do we all share the same impressions of life", or "Does it even exist at all?" Quite regular stuff and much discussed in the world's literature, this novel keeps banging on about them, but does not develop in any significant way.

The characters are presented as a simplistic amalgam of psychiatric disorders plucked out of the DSM Manual - bits of autism, (well, lots of that), paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorder, hardly "magical things to discover". In fact something to avoid and run away screaming from. And also where does Lady F. fit in?, either the voice of the unconscious, or some attempt to provide some philosophical comment, which is pretty weak.

There are important continuing observations throughout, like seizing the day, taking risks, and appreciating the Gestalt of the moment, with all the choice and options that are there every breathing moment. Always expect the unexpected, and keep life a mystery. OK, I got the message quickly.

I have probably got hold of the wrong end of the stick, but I am sure after reading this book, I will not be on my own here.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm sorry to say I couldn't finish this. The description sounded fascinating, `a book about all the magical new things that you can discover if you're brave enough to break out of your boring routine and take a fresh look at the world around you.' Sounds good, I thought. I'll have some of that. Sadly, reading it was a chore from the start, never a pleasure, and there are just too many other books in the world I actually want to read. Was there a story here? I couldn't find one. It read like the conversations at a student all-nighter that's been crashed by the philosophy professor - the one who thinks he's `down with the kids', who's never quite grasped that it's not 1973 any more.

I think much of the problem could be with the translation. I've read other Russian novels that read like this, translations that drive far too close to the original words. This may very well be how Russian people speak, but it doesn't work in English; conversations felt clumsy, heavy and unnatural. The description is full of pseudo-philosophy. It just felt like it was trying SO hard to be BIG, surreal and full of meaning, and it just wasn't.
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on 25 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a huge fan of classical Russian literature, particularly Dostoevsky, so I was really intrigued by what I would make of a contemporary Russian novel like It's Time.

Having read the book, I'd say any comparison with 18th or early 19th century works is hardly worth making. It's Time is a very unusual book. To the extent that it is identifiably Russian, I'd say it shares the slight sense of madness I always get from reading, for example, Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift). This is a big positive for the novel.

In the same way, the characterisations and descriptions of the city Kostin writes about are excellent, and made for a very enjoyable read.

Yet I feel that the book has lost too much in translation, which is why I've only given it three stars. The abstract, philosophical nature of Max's musings and conversations require almost perfect use of language to pull off, and I suspect to get the full enjoyment from what is clearly excellent writing, you'd need to be able to read it in Russian.

As it is, I'm left with a book which I admire, but I'm also left with a feeling that somehow I've missed out on the best that this novel has to offer, because I'm reading it in English.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I tried to understand it. I love edgy new literature. But I say literature, then I read "urban romantics"... and it all falls apart.

I love works in translation, and don't shy away from foreign literature. There again, I often try to read it in the original language so I can interpret the work in my own way. And I don't know Russian.

So a modern Russian romantic portrayal that is trying to be quirky and edgy... I don't know, maybe the translator was drunk when they gave it a go. It wasn't to my taste, but I can see there is probably some talent sitting behind the translator's interpretation of this work hence the 3 star rating.
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on 27 May 2012
'It's Time' offers English readers a rare glimpse into contemporary Russian writing. Subtleties, connotations, nuance and sounds - and particularly argot and colloquialisms - of the original language can't be completely reproduced in a translation. It's far easier to translate Tolstoy than a contemporary writer and James Rann has done a great job, but I can't help feeling that the novel probably has a greater impact in Russian.
That quibble apart, this novel should be welcomed. The author is Russian, but there's a universality about his city in the novel - it's undefined, it's anywhere and everywhere. The protagonist Max spends much of his time on a roof observing this city which melds into one with the sky and the sea. Below him is faceless and stressful urban life, whilst up on his roof Max has entered a different plane of quasi-metaphysical musings, imagination, freedom, beauty - perhaps some kind of magic. Those whom he interacts with are on his wave length: Viktor the photographer who sees beauty unseen by others, artist Mutt who has developed an idiosyncratic vision which blanks out all the city dross and sees only his paintings `flashing and burning in the darkness'. Max is mourning the loss of his beloved Tanya and is comforted by his enigmatic friend, Lady F, who appears and reappears unbidden, encouraging him to believe that all is possible - and who may or not be real. As Max seeks for meaning, miraculous coincidences and escapes from death heighten this sense of mystery and magic. His street artist friend expresses his own search for meaning through his `writing on the wall', examples of which are integrated into the text in the book.
What is refreshing about the novel is that it is about gentleness, love, life, and freedom from the base values of city life: there is no violence, sex, politics or cruelty. Max is alive to the beauty of the city and its skies. For him, seeing the sunset colours is to enter into a secret place: 'It's as if I'm here and there simultaneously, everywhere, in every cell of this night, and that all of this is some sweet secret' Watching the waves produces within him a calm poetry of movement: 'The beach. The waves roll in. It's already evening, but the sky on the sea is as blindingly bright as it is in the afternoon. The cool sand. I take it in my hand, and billions of tiny stones slip through my fingers in cold streams.'
It's possible that the soul-searching appeals more to Russians with their traditional deep responses to the voice of the soul, but young people anywhere reading this English version will identify with Max's unquiet questioning and questing, and find the tense final pages comfortingly life-affirming. Rather like Max's life, the novel has no traditional structure: there are no beginnings or ends in any of the threads in the narrative, and the final words are `THE BEGINNING'.
This is a brave and unusual publication - read it!

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on 6 May 2012
I received this book thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There are a lot of layers in this book in which eveyone can find something, and an interesting end that makes you want to read the book again.
The story elements - the narrator and his friends and their lives in a city (modeled on Kaliningrad) and street art are well written. The psychology of the characters is very well crafted, each person is interesting. Moreover, Max, the protagonist, sees life in a different way. The story often gives way to long philosophical/metaphysical passages, about life, death, love, art, friendship, fate, the city... Each of these themes are important to me so I enjoyed it. And when you come from a big city yourself this book really speaks to you.
Moreover, something is happening to Max, adding another layer to the book and leading us to the end of the story.
The only drawback in my opinion would be the editing, for instance there was a passage when Max is with Mutt, but 10 lines after it is Torte...
So I would warmly recommend It's Time, if you're not afraid of metaphysical passages and books that challenge you, it's a real page turner.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Why did I do it? It seemed a good idea at the time and the book - vaguely interesting; particularly after reading the extravagant claims - made by the author. Perhaps I'll write down my random thoughts interspersed between brief accounts of my day during which I do nothing more interesting than encounter various uninteresting friends and associates and a mysterious and intriguing woman with whom I share philosophical musings and who keeps vanishing and then reappearing at odd times: is she real? Perhaps I'll even succeed in getting it published and dupe gullible people into reading it by making, even though it has nothing remotely resembling an actual story, extravagant claims for its contents. Perhaps I'll succeed in getting it published if I make it surreal enough people won't have a clue what it's all about and take the safe option and believe that I'm a genius - just in case.

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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I liked this book but it is not for everyone. It is translated from russian and I think that the translator did a very good job of translating a weird and unusual script. It is really difficult to explain this book as you need to read it to get a chance to understand it. I think it is one of those books that you either love or hate. But if you enjoy unusual books, different ways of thinking and writing, then you may like this book. If you are not that adventureous in litterature then you may miss the point of this book and not get it at all.
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