Thursday, May 17, 2007

Have I relieved myself on his provisions?

After Cormac McCarthy's dire post-apocalyptic The Road, I needed a more optimistic and silly post-apocalyptic read. Tatyana Tostaya's The Slynx fit the bill.

Centuries after The Blast, life in Russia is hard. Peasants struggle to eek out a living catching mice for food. The great ruler Fyodor Kuzmich employs some of them in the copying of books, which he claims to have written. The few remaining Oldeners--who became mysteriously immortal upon surviving The Blast--know better, however. There are a variety of mutants with a variety of Consequences. Some breathe fire (which no one knows how to make), some have extra limbs, some have tails, some exhibit strange growths. But there is rusht to smoke, rusht beer to drink, and mice stew to keep one going through the harsh winters. A mysterious catlike monster meows pitiably from the woods at night, and everybody fears the Slynx will get them and drain their souls.

Benedikt copies books for the great leader daily, but never really gets what they're for until he copies The Little Gingerbread Man and is powerfully moved. Then he marries into a rich family with a full library, and the Consequence is a new Russian revolution. Meet the new boss, same as the old: even the Apocalypse can't change Russia.

Tolstaya is Leo Tolstoy's great-grandniece, and she's written a clever novel that projects Russia's current state of dystopia centuries into the future, but with humor rather than doom and gloom. A Gogolesque fantasy worth checking out.

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