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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
Posted July 18, 2012
The Ice Trilogy follows a group of spiritual beings trapped on earth attempting to find one another and reawaken their true form, their renewal beginning with the Tunguska Meteor falling in Siberia.
While the narrative has many interesting ideas within it, the plot ambles about and repeatedly stalls. The second half the first book in the trilogy could easily been summed up as "We traveled around finding people until 1945."
The next two books of the trilogy have no real structured plot, but rather tell their tale through shorts that sometimes tie together to form a greater whole. Unfortunately the vast majority of these are quick character sketches that all end the same way, with the character never to be seen again. Once it becomes apparent that the first few characters will never be reappear, it becomes progressively more difficult to care about those introduced (and then abandoned promptly) later. This becomes especially tedious because very few of these stories really involve the plot besides saying, "and then we found some more people."
While Sorokin does have some very interesting ideas, they only occasionally appear and are never developed satisfyingly. Similarly, what little conflict does arise happens largely offstage and is typically solved by a character agreeing to take care of it. The few very well done and interesting action/horror scenes Sorokin presents are obnoxiously wiped away with, "but that was a dream."
Finally, the climactic ending promised through the entire trilogy was disappointing and nonsensical.
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Posted August 8, 2011
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Posted November 14, 2011
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