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Specimen Paperback – March 15, 2016
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
These stories of science, unfamiliar landscapes, and all-too-familiar heartbreaks are a vehicle for Kovalyova’s bold experimentation with the short fiction form. In “Peptide P,” written in the form of a case study, a scientist notes that “we became alerted to the possibility that so-called parapsychological abilities might account (at least partially) for the resistance to HB disease.” The fictional Heart Break (HB) disease literally breaks down heart cells, but the story allows Kovalyova to explore how one might survive heartbreak, without resorting to standard romantic tropes. The stories build to the longer “The Blood Keeper,” in which Vera Mishkin follows her father to North Korea, falls in love with a colleague there, and plans a bold escape from the country. If many of the stories bear recurrent themes including the loss of a parent, immersion in scientific research, and the life an immigrant, then “The Blood Keeper” wraps those themes into a single vessel and beautifully examines the loneliness wrought by those experiences. Kovalyova is a lecturer in molecular biology at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, and this is a debut collection that successfully and gracefully bridges the divide between the worlds of art and science. Agent: Monica Pacheco, Anne McDermid & Associates. (Apr.)\n
"A first collection that explores intersections between different cultures and between science and love. Through it all, though, Kovalyova's stories remain large-hearted and generous toward their characters as they struggle to make sense of the strange worlds around them tenderly wrought, collection." - Kirkus
"The facts of sex and inheritance cannot explain away human emotion in this strong, science-themed story collection." - Foreword Reviews
Such a varied collection testifies to a roaming imagination and willingness to push the boundaries of form and technique.” The Globe and Mail
These immensely readable stories demonstrate that we do have imagination, we do have a sense of humour.” National Post
Kovalyova has a knack for formal inventiveness Specimen deserves an attentive readership.” Toronto Star
The influence of Russian writers shines on every page a technical marvel.” Maclean’s
Specimen is enriched with the author’s scholarship, but its nine stories also pack an emotional punch. Kovalyova welds gentle humour and bald wonder to explore the scientific underpinnings of the universe, including all kinds of love and despair.” - Walrus Magazine
She is a great storyteller astonishingly skilled at both traditional and experimental narrative. The writing is immediate, bold, and original. Lean, powerful dialogue.” - Quill and Quire
I love it when impressive new work by a debut writer takes me by surprise. That’s how I experienced this series of fascinating short stories by Irina Kovalyova Don’t assume that these stylistic innovations or the scientific nature of the content take away from the work’s emotional power. Kovalyova’s taut prose not a word is wasted tells stories about fear, ambition and love there's no doubt great things are coming from this writer. Watch out for her.” Now Magazine, Critics Pick
To read Irina Kovalyova is to peer through a microscope and discover worlds infinitely big and exquisitely small. These stories are luminous. They capture light. They cast sharp shadows. They take root in your heart. I have never read stories like these, and I long to read more. Rare specimens indeed.” Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise
Irina Kovalyova is a keeper of different worlds, and Specimen is like a glass bottle that you turn in your hands to watch unexamined worlds roll around, laid bare. Read these stories, and feel yourself changed in the process.” Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away
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The collection has lots of variety, too. Kovalyova experiments with different story structures. In particular, science-y folks will love “Peptide P,” a work of short fiction told entirely in the format of a scientific journal article. It’s brilliant, original, and effective, and like all great short stories, throws a twist at the end. My second favorite story was “The Side Effects,” a love story and psychological/medical suspense tale told from the point of view of a psych patient.
The final thing I’ll mention is the stories also have a Russian/Eastern European influence. I’m not a literary scholar so I can’t give you much more detail, but it’s there in settings and tone.
If you like Specimen, you might enjoy:The Afflictions