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Ice Trilogy (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – March 15, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Sorokin completed the three novels of the Ice Trilogy in 2008. Now, thanks to a translation by Jamey Gambrell that heroically endeavours to capture its myriad voices, from watercolour lyricism to purest pulp, we can enjoy it in all its gaudy glory. Think William S Burroughs, and Michel Houellebecq, and Will Self, all whizzed into this delirious post-Soviet SF mash-up. I found some sections absolutely exquisite, some unexpectedly moving, some intellectually exhilarating - and plenty just grotesque and absurd, as Sorokin no doubt planned.... Ice Trilogy becomes extraordinary when Sorokin drives this old dystopian banger off the fantasy highway and into the darkest places of the Russian – and European – 20th century. In one bravura set-piece after another, he not only re-visits key tragedies of modern times, but mimics – or re-voices – the literary styles that partner them. .... In the first volume, Bro, we begin in Chekhov territory...The middle volume, Ice, begins in the 1990s with an outlandish parody not so much of Russian life in the heyday of Yeltsin and the oligarchs as the West's cartoon representation of it.....Then in one of Sorokin's trademark lurches, we switch back to a noble Vasily Grossman-esque wartime drama... In the final part, 23,000, these wilful collisions grow more extreme. A Spielberg-style finale leaves us frozen in the postmodern fix...." --Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
“So we yearn for certainty, salvation, the absolute-what's wrong with that? We always have and we always will. Go ahead, Sorokin seems to say; you can't really help it. Just be careful what you wish for. . . . Those readers (and reviewers) who turn to literature for consolation, or moral enlightenment, or lessons in self-esteem, are well advised to look elsewhere.”
-Christian Caryl, The New York Review of Books
“The Ice Trilogy is devoted to the fortunes of an apocalyptic Brotherhood whose members believe they are bodily incarnations of a primordial light. But they are only made aware of their true identity be being ‘awakened’, in a process that involves being bashed in the chest with a hammer made of ice….The fact that the readers see events through the Brotherhood’s eyes is a powerful estranging device: we are forced to accept as legitimate the perspective of delusional psychopaths, and constantly made to reread history from their point of view. This is the most provocative aspect of the trilogy: its aspiration to unsettle conventional historical narratives.” – Tony Wood, London Review of Books
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Top Customer Reviews
The ice gets cast forth like rice at a wedding in Vladimir Sorokin's dark, Russian fantasy, "Ice Trilogy". Sorokin's work is well-known in Russia and the subject of much controversy. One of his earlier books, Blue Lard, was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a Russian nationalist group claiming that his depiction of `intimate relations' between a clone of Stalin and a clone of Khrushchev was pornographic and defamed the Russian people. Not unexpectedly the suit resulted in a tremendous increase in sales. Similarly, in the newly-released Day of the Oprichnik: A Novel, Sorokin looks at a futuristic Russia and sees a world where violence and brutality are the norm.
In an interview with Spiegel, the German magazine, Sorokin has stated that "[a]s a child I perceived violence as a sort of natural law. In the totalitarian Soviet Union, oppression held everything together. It was the sinister energy of our country. I had that sense by as early as kindergarten and grade school. Later on I wanted to understand why human beings are unable to do without violence. It's a mystery I haven't solved to this day. Yes, violence is my main theme." I think this bit of background is essential to any review of The Ice Trilogy.
Written as three separate volumes and sold as one book by NYRB, Ice Trilogy has an almost biblical story-line. Part 1, "Bro", starts off with what can be called the book's Genesis: the Tunguska Event. On June 30, one of the largest meteorites ever to enter the earth's atmosphere struck down in the middle of Siberia. Scientists have estimated that the blast hit Siberia with the same force as a 15-megaton nuclear blast.Read more ›
The premise of this speculative-fiction trilogy is intriguing. The execution, however, is mediocre. Sorokin has been described as a Russian Houellebecq, but he is a distinctly weaker writer; this is not "The Possibility of an Island, v.2." Throughout the trilogy, Sorokin never finds a way to make the narrative propulsive in a cohesive sense. Again and again we read about a new awakening via the ice hammer ceremony. Yet there is no antagonist that the Brotherhood fights. It's just endless new awakenings, building up over time, each one involving a different kind of person. The short vignettes for each new victim are not particularly interesting, and they do not add up to the kind of insightful encyclopedic survey that the author seems to be aiming for. Sorokin has audacity and imagination. He could use more skill.
Simply put, the author's basic idea about the Brotherhood is interesting. The Brotherhood's highly-sensitive moralism of "the Heart" forms a paradoxical contrast with its brutal violent campaigns. But on reflection, that paradox is actually a defining characteristic of the worst political movements, here making their appearance in the form of Stalinism and Nazism. So the metaphorical idea is a great subject.Read more ›
Fair enough. But by the end of the book I had been bombarded by so much repetition and a co-responding lack of good ideas that I was actually angry that I had wasted so much time.
If you want the Ice Trilogy experience on the cheap, find a MP3 player and record "ice hammer" "heart awakening" "meat machine" and "twenty-three". Then put it on shuffle and repeat for twenty hours. That's what reading this book is like.
Russia has many great writers; Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekov.... Do yourself a favor and read a book by one of these writers. Even binge watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is a better use of your time.
Vladimir Sorokin should be ashamed for this addition to the roll call of Russian literature. If writing this negative review will keep just one person from wasting their time, I'd say my life has served a very useful purpose.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a long disconnected trilogy. The scene and the characters in the climactic end of the Brotherhood of Light have no reference to the opening family story in Ukraine. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Geoff Crocker
I must have read a pretty glowing review of this somewhere and felt ambitious, because I'm kind of sizist about books. Read morePublished 16 months ago by A. Ross
Because you will find yourself flipping pages through endless dream sequences and peripheral transient characters in search of a plot. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
the epic story is best enjoyed as the full trilogy, I flew through the pages with an engaging story that really developed the characters throughout a very long period of time. Read morePublished 24 months ago by MrAndersono0O
Simple, naive and not even well written. The central plot is plainly ridiculous. I really expected more from the russians.Published on June 9, 2013 by Orlando Salinas Hudson
I actually read a review on this book from a magazine and thought to check it out. The first novel is really so unique and strange that you find yourself really drawn in and unable... Read morePublished on October 17, 2011 by B. K. Fromal
It's an odd thing that most reviewers of Sorokin tend compare him to other writers, living or dead, as if somehow that would assign certain worth to his writing and rank him in... Read morePublished on June 4, 2011 by schadenfreude