Thursday, January 13, 2011

book review: 2017 by Olga Slavnikova



"Today, humanity is holding in a secret pocket a fundamentally new world in which is it incapable of living. Because in this new world most types of activity - yours, for instance - are pointless. Of the eight billion Homo sapiens, seven and a half aren't needed for anything."

This story, set slightly in the future, is as much about the past as it is the possible state of Russia in six years.

The anniversary of the revolution provokes a collapse in the country as the Reds and Whites emerge to fight old battles but for the main characters that is background noise as they cope with their own challenge to outwit the maiden of the mountain and get their hands on precious gems.

The idea of a maiden of the mountain provides a mystical element to the story which feels both futuristic as well as relating to the here Urals and fight madness in order to find gems that could make their fortunes those that stay behind in the cities are no less suspectible to madness.

The attraction of wealth and fame is one that doesn't just strike the diggers but effects those that are dazzled by the bright lights of television and the money, furs and cars that the elite have access to.

This is a story on one level of greed but it is also one of love. The central character, Krylov, falls in love with a stranger that he meets when bidding his gem hunting boss Professor Anfilogov farewell at the station.

The mystery woman and him meet in different parts of the city and their relationship grows. But like all things in this shallow world depicted by Slavnikova greed eventually destroys that love as well.

A brilliant mix of mythical fantasy along with a feel of a contemporary critique of Russian society pulls you in. There are images conjured up by the author that stick with you months after you have read the book.

The story 2017 is one that speaks of where Russia is now. The shadow cast by the revolution lingers on and the gulf between rich and poor is more relevant than ever before.

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