A Graph Review
50 with highpoints to 65
by Andrey Kurkov.
Published by Vintage Books 2005 9780099461692. Paperback
I read Death and the Penguin first and it certainly helps before you read Penguin Lost. So, as a recommendation to read I suggest you take on the first title before Penguin Lost. Do you have to? Obviously not but the sequel really is a true sequel and requires a knowledge of the main character and circumstances leading to his living in a research station in Antarctica.
You get a brief cast list at the start which helps a little.
It is a strange hand of luck and misfortune that has been dealt to Viktor Zolotaryov. With the knowledge of his lifestyle, occupation and relationships from the first book you see how his past leads him again into a hazardous world. Throughout this second book, involving Kiev, Moscow, Chechnya and back, there is journeying, politics, not so secret banditry, money as passport and people-smuggling, in his search for Misha, his penguin.
Quite a complex route for Viktor in a world of corruption but a part of the landscape he accepts. Simple and straightforward in style but rich with an honest brutality in events you can believe. Maybe this title has less humour tucked away. You do not need to read between the lines as the story unfolds with glimpses of the real world. Most likely because the first book catches the attention, for this second there is expectation of the same but the story is harsher, something of a counter-balance for the first.
New characters push Viktor into a dangerous world (again) whilst he reconnects with his past in search of his lost penguin, Misha. In this book we are shown further aspects of the world around him and his awareness of it. His ability as a writer to see the obvious carries him along with the current, this time in electioneering. The reader follows his search and gains an insight into a world of graft along the way. His journey from Moscow to Chechnya reads briefly but is superbly graphic in description, one of the few times you can point to words being more effective than a picture.
Further, within the story come disturbing events and some elemental truths when a society itself becomes basic. It is lifted by odd threads of humanity from players in the story and the determined nature of Viktor’s search. Scene and story moves on apace. Plenty of crime, of war, of politics, of corruption and many senses of friendship in a mangled world in the period of Yeltsin after Gorbachov. Humour? Love? To start and to finish, what else would you expect if you had a penguin?
Kurkov writes in Russian, now lives in Kiev and the translator is George Bird. Originally copyrighted (assume published) in 2002. Via translation, is beautifully written.
Summing up, this is a good conclusion to two novels with an intriguing storyline. Some humour, dark, and a journey through to a new world or rather away from an old fractured world. This is an ever moving story with a good ending that provides satisfaction as a stand-alone but especially as a sequel.
Where do you place this book? Is it a Thriller or is it Crime?
Well it doesn’t matter, I just have to say: It would be a crime not to put it on the shelf, next to Death and the Penguin.