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Us Conductors: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 464 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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The story is narrated by Termin as we go back and forth in time, following his early life in Russia just before the revolution as he is surrounded by fellow intellectual students interested in science and mathematics. He has a particular interest in vacuum tubes. When he comes up with the idea of the theremin, it takes Russia and then the United States by storm. He becomes a popular public figure and finds himself in the United States, where he is funded by the Russian government to work as a reluctant spy.
Termin finds himself torn between the glamour and freedom of the United States and it's capitalism and his devotion to Mother Russia. He lives a life of great notoriety and excitement as he experiences the Manhattan social and musical scene in the 1920's and 30's.
But then we know that Termin is narrating his story while on a boat, seemingly locked in a cabin, alone. We also - and these are some of the most difficult scenes to read - experience what it is like to be in held in a Russian prison in the heart of Siberia.
The story is beautifully written and you really feel transported both in time and place between the bleakness of Russia and the excitement of Manhattan. It's really a wonderful history lesson as well - where we find out what life was like in Russia and especially for the intellectually elite during the brutal reign of Stalin.
Highly recommended. Be sure to read the Afterward by the author.
I found the first part of the novel boring, frankly, but the second half was quite riveting. I sometimes found it difficult to relate to the main character - smart but dumb pretty much sums him up - and, indeed, most of the characters, some of them historical, were not drawn all that sharply. I don't think it detracts from the novel, however, since all the empathy is directed almost solely toward the main character. There is, in addition, a great deal of research that went into this novel, not only in time and place, but also with respect to a host of historical characters, Russian scientists mostly. Many will find that very interesting. I did but only to a point.
It was the author's prose that won me over. I found it absolutely amazing, stunning even in originality and pace, particularly when the main was reflecting back or describing his feelings. I don't know why the author felt the need to take a historical character and turn his life around and twist it up for the sake of fiction. A fictional character based on that real life individual would have accomplished all that was needed in my opinion. However, it's not the story itself that's so important but how it's told that makes it a winner. To me, the prose and the author's ability to describe the inner despair of the main character in a brilliant fashion is what makes this novel very good, if not great. Highly recommended.