The Tsar of Love and Techno: A book review

I could have sworn that Entertainment Weekly (my favorite magazine) reviewed this book and so that’s how I knew about it. But I’ve been scouring the net looking for it and I appear to be wrong. I don’t know what review I skimmed that made me interested in this book. But I knew to remember the cover.

The writing in this book is its best feature. Maybe not the descriptions of the characters (don’t ask me how to describe them. I’ll just say “Russian”), but the setting is clear and the feeling is clear. I was very tense when reading many passages, which I liked. The worst part about this was the plot. Let me explain.

I went into this thinking it was a true novel, but other sources tell me one could really call it a short story collection, despite it being called a novel in every review and the cover never mentioning that the stories could be seen as separate as well as part of a whole. No wonder it felt disjointed and shaky, despite the common themes and linked characters. NPR alludes to it as a “mixtape,” which I almost rolled my eyes at. But I’ll allow it, despite the lack of music threaded through the whole book. All I’m saying is, a little bit more warning on the structure of the “novel” would have made me more prepared for the POV shifts and character attachment issues I faced.

The New York Times Book Review called it the modern “War and Peace” which I will not argue with. The story is very literary. Very cruel and brutal. Very Russian.

I did like it, but it wasn’t for me. This would appeal to history buffs or those more serious about Russian culture. Me? I just like babushka dolls.

Other reviews I agree with:

I still can’t decide whether I liked this book or not. I think that has something to do with the fact the the book can’t decide whether it is a novel or a collection of short, yet very intertwined, stories.

I think the format detracted a bit -250 pages of interlocking characters and stories, but without the cohesion of a novel.

A good read, but not the world’s new best gift to fiction like the critics would like me to believe.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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