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This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts.
In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Ida Wilder on 03-12-16
I switched to print.
What did you like best about The Tsar of Love and Techno? What did you like least?
The narration, in my opinion, was not worthy of the story. I lost so much in that the voices didn't sound as intelligent as the words being spoken. I missed SO MUCH. I am very glad the library had it so I could go back and appreciate the entire text. And I am usually not one to complain about voices but this didn't work for me.
What other book might you compare The Tsar of Love and Techno to and why?
Maybe, the Imerfectionists by Tom Rachman - for linked stories.
Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?
Did The Tsar of Love and Techno inspire you to do anything?
I want to read everything Marra writes.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By W Perry Hall on 10-08-15
The Nutcracker's Cosmonautic March
I normally find it difficult to complete even half of a short story collection, except on the rare occasion the stories are intertwined by characters and events. I'll listen to 1 or 2 but eventually go back to the traditional Freytag's Pyramid, invest myself in a novel, and then forget about the collection of nice, but not compelling, stories.
In comparison, I quickly became absorbed by the lofty TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO because, for one thing, the first story is both chilling and compelling, and another, these stories make you want to discover the interlacing threads and watch the magic of the completed whole. That is to say, the reader learns through each story which characters are primary, and discovers that character has returned in a later story in some other context. The stories so complement the others that, aside from the 1st, 3d and 4th stories, I'm not sure the others would have nearly the impact they do had any one of them stood on its own outside the context of the collection.
I enjoyed the entire collection excepting the second story. Should you get annoyed by the shrew's narration, stick with the book; while irritating in itself, the second story adds pieces to the whole. In hindsight, the structure seems hard to have pulled off, but I couldn't tell at the time because of the seeming simplicity of each story (all of which were structured brilliantly).
These stirring stories center on an uncle and nephews, a pair of brothers, a couple, a mother (and daughter), a girl (and grandmother) and a painting, and occur variously at three locales of the former Soviet Union (Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Kirovsk [in Siberia to the east of China] and within Chechnya). The first story is set in 1937 during the Stalin purge [“In order to become the chisel that breaks the marble inside us, the artist must first become the hammer," said the Soviet censor of paintings and photos.] The remaining tales occur primarily between the mid-1990s and 2013. They hit on a wide array of subjects like censorship, Russian art, the breakup of the Soviet Union, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Russians in Chechnya, mine fields, the nuclear age and outer space, and art (in life and capturing life in art). IMAGES - mix tapes, leopard bikini bottoms, a ballerina, a painting of an empty Chechen field in the afternoon, a lone wolf in the woods for an execution.
This magnificent collection evoked reflection on how circumstances can change people so that basically good people have the capacity to do evil, but how, in all but the most aberrant among us, there's a reservoir of basic goodness in the face of evil. It also aroused my contemplation of the fleeting nature of life, what impression do we really and truly make on a planet we visit so shortly, how small each of us is in relation to time and space, and how Art, above most else, can transcend life.
Anthony Marra is a master at evoking sympathy for characters so foreign to a reader in the U.S., and in his ability to simultaneously create both sympathy and contempt for a character. Even in short stories, knots of complexity surround the six major characters, making them so human, their sentiments so real.
In my opinion, this book is even better than Mr. Marra's debut novel "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." I believe he has the potential to write a novel for the ages. No exaggerating.
On a side note, I think Marra made up for his debut's hard-to-recall title and its washed out cover with his new Hip title and even Hipper cover.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful