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The Unpossessed City: A Novel Hardcover – October 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201900
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,591,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Fasman, whose well-received debut, The Geographer's Library (2005), was set in Da Vinci Code territory, takes a compassionate look at the hard truths of modern-day Russia in his absorbing second novel. After a failed romance, 32-year-old Jim Vilatzer is working in his father's Rockville, Md., restaurant, trying to earn enough cash to pay off a $24,000 gambling debt. In an attempt to earn more money, Jim uses his Russian language skills learned in college to get a job in Moscow with the Memory Foundation to interview and record the stories of former political prisoners. A series of interviews draws him into a far-reaching scheme involving the abduction of retired Russian nuclear and biotech scientists. The bio-thriller aspect of the plot provides a loose frame for Fasman's real concerns: Jim's personal, romantic and espionage relationships and, more importantly, the trials and tribulations of the new Russia itself. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Thirtysomething Jim Vilatzer lives at home and works in his parents’ restaurant. He’s going nowhere until gambling debts force him to make a change. He lands a job in Moscow (he grew up speaking Russian to his immigrant grandparents), interviewing survivors of the gulag for a not-for-profit company. His work soon makes him a pawn in a scheme to sell to the highest bidder four of the former USSR’s top weapons engineers, which, in turn, leads him to become a target of Russian state security and the CIA. Fasman (The Geographer’s Library, 2005), weaves two very different plotlines here, one the story of a man discovering a new world and realizing that his roots are more important than he realized, the other tracking the machinations of crooked Russian officials to sell fellow citizens for a profit. The first plot is deftly, even lovingly achieved; Fasman’s Moscow is beautiful, tragic, brutal, and exhilarating. The second story line is convoluted and arcane. But, even so, the sum of the parts in this lyrically written novel is more than enough to keep readers engaged. --Thomas Gaughan

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Customer Reviews

One of the best books I've read, period.
D. Wafford
I enjoyed the story, the intrigue, plot twists and especially the descriptions of life in Moscow were riveting.
book listener
As a mystery, the plot was complex and surprising.
rebekkah4

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on May 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reveals Jon Fasman's deep understanding and love of Moscow. While the plot entertains and moves along briskly, it is really his descriptions of the city and its inhabitants that captured and delighted me. Well worth the read!
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By D. Wafford on July 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
I haven't read Fasman's debut novel, but I will after reading this. One of the best books I've ever read in terms of creating realistic atmosphere without tiresomely detailed descriptions, and one of the best I've read in terms of creating characters who seem as rounded, genuine, complex and inconsistent as your friends and neighbors, without resorting to improbable physical traits or behaviors. One of the best books I've read in terms of characters' normal routines inexorably dragging them into precarious situations beyond their control. One of the best books I've read, period. Bravo!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By myviews on November 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I tend to like books that transport you to unfamiliar places through the eyes of characters poised at familiar crossroads, in search of their identity, their roots and their possibilities. Fasman's new novel does just that. The opening chapter set in a Russian prison draws you in immediately with its tension and foreboding tone while the shift to Rockville, Maryland introduces you to Jim Vilatzer, a 32 -year old at odds with himself and his life. The plot moves swiftly and engages you throughout with unexpected twists and turns that make you want to know with increasing urgency how these worlds connect. But what I loved most of all in this book and in Fasman's last, The Geographer's Library, (and for that matter, what will keep me looking forward to whatever he writes next), is the writing itself. This is an author with a gift for immersing you in the locales he writes about, for making you feel as if you are in Moscow traveling alongside Jim, experiencing the city's "unpredictability and toughness" and at the same time, discovering its "unexpected, genuine moments of kindness."
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By NJgirl60 on December 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is not only a well-written, literate, well-paced thriller, but a love letter to Moscow as well. Mr. Fasman's descriptions of Moscow are wonderfully evocative, giving the reader a sense of the grimness of the city and the fortitude required of it's citizens for survival. The descriptions of the various characters are likewise precise and compelling: "His driver was short, pudgy, and given to sweating. With his ill-fitting uniform, his nervous smile, and a pallor that gave him a slightly boiled appearance, he looked every inch the low-level apparatchik, constantly trying to gauge which way the wind is blowing, certain that whichever direction it comes from will be unfavorable." The book abounds with passages that are similarly picturesque. I highly recommend The Unpossessed City; especially for those who have lived, visited, or plan to travel to Moscow.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rebekkah4 on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book was great on a number of levels. As a mystery, the plot was complex and surprising. As a novel, the writing was wonderful, a pleasure to read. And as a lesson about contemporary Russia, this book was fantastic. I feel like I understand more about Russia by reading this novel, in a way that I couldn't just by watching the news or reading non-fiction. This is a beautifully composed, nuanced book with very strong, almost cinematic imagery that makes the story electrifying. 100% recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DCReader on December 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Fasman takes you on the express from everyday Washington suburbia to the Moscow underworld. He gives you a real sense of the way it would feel to live in Moscow. He conveys both the hard edge and the soft center of life in that city. He takes you there with a sympathetic if rudderless main character, Jim, who drifts into an escalating situation that quickly makes the book a real page-turner. The plot twists and turns from loan sharks in America to a beautiful woman, bio-terrorists, the CIA, Russian police and murderous plots in Russia. The ending is surprising and satisfying.
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