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The Violent Century

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  815 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Introduction by Cory Doctorow

“A torrid tour de force.” —James Ellroy
“Like Watchmen on crack.”—io9
“If John le Carre wrote a superhero novel about the Cold War, it might be this good.” —Charles Stross

A bold experiment has mutated a small fraction of humanity. Nations race to harness the gifted, putting them to increasingly dark ends. At the dawn of global war, flashy America
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 24th 2013 by Hodder
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  815 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
I picked up this superhero novel in the hopes that it would be like a book version of the Watchmen movie. Unfortunately it never played out like that. The Watchman movie had an interesting and captivating narrator in the form of Rorschach and a whole bunch of interesting secondary characters. The problem with The Violent Century was simply that it lacked anything even remotely engaging or captivating. The story was sloooooow, the writing distant, and the characters completely bland.

The basic pr
What makes a man?

What makes a hero?

A tall, pale, aristocratic-looking man walks into a pub in London. The pub is almost impossible to find, hidden under a railway arch, lost in thick fog. There is only one patron at the bar.

“The Old Man wants to have a word with you,” the tall, aristocratic man tells him.

Clearly, these men know each other well. No, the man at the bar growls, he’s retired. It’s about an old file, the tall man explains. Which file, the bar patron wants to know.

Oblivion says a sing
Tudor Ciocarlie
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For me, there were only two masterpieces in the superheroes genre: Alan Moore's Watchmen and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight. The Violent Century is certainly the third one. There is so much to be impressed with in this novel: the structure, the characters, the prose and alternate history, that is such a wonderful tool to examine the real 2nd World War, its hideous consequences and all the havoc and trauma it produced on the outside world and on the soul of the humans beings. In a way every part ...more
Lavie Tidhar’s novels dwell in some clouded never-realm, mixing fact, fiction, reality, and fantasy in a potent gumbo. His wondrous creations, however, often do not follow standard protocol of plot lines. “The Violent Century” is a hybrid mix of X-Men with Inglorious Bastards. It revisits the Second World War with superhumans fighting secretly for both sides. In Britain, the mutants are gathered into a school, a farm, a world where there talents can be cultivated before they are sent out and cha ...more
The story is told in a short synopsis style which means (to me) short choppy bullet style point non-sentences..... make sense? (prose some would call it) but it goes way behind that And..... its very..... well..... tiring is maybe the word & its an effort to read sometimes & certainly isn’t smooth. Even the dialogue is choppy

Being an alternate timeline story with the text jumping from the present to jus about anywhere in the 20th century & in that respect the style works as sometimes
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about this book until it turned up on my doorstep. But once I’d learnt a little about it, I thought it sounded fascinating – superheroes and an alternate history, a particularly apt book considering I’m reading all the Marvel comics I can get my hands on at the moment. Plus that cover – how amazing is it?! Now I have to admit
Daniel Polansky
Reading a book by a person you know is a lose/lose proposition. Either you like it, which is damaging to the ego and corrupting to any similar ideas you may have had, or you don't like it, and are forced to mouth lies to them at gatherings. I've known Lavie Tidhar for, I dunno, four or five years now, quite casually, we send each other mean twitter messages and meet for drinks on extremely infrequent occasions. I have a short story in his for-charity anthology Jews Vs. Zombies. I do a really sev ...more
Liz Barnsley
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it
**3.5 stars for the story**

I didnt finish this one, got halfway then realised I was just not with it - The writing style just didnt click with me. HOWEVER the story concept is terrific, and I liked the characters. But the purely descriptive prose, with even the speech being written as description, as an example :


The other says, there's a girl in there, she can make fire. Clicks his fingers. Says, Like that. Must be handy Fogg says. The other shrugs. Takes a drag. Blows out smoke. Fogg,idly
Milo (BOK)
The Review:

“An excellent standalone novel, Lavie Tidhar propels himself into the spotlight with one of the best novels of the year. After excelling with several novels in the past, The Violent Century is what raises the benchmark for his fiction and should be the novel that puts him on everybody’s must-read list. This book is just that good.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they’d guarded the Britis
3.5 stars. It was fun and clever and weird and interesting and entertaining and also the kind of genre fiction that can be important too, the kind I really love that says a lot while it entertains. There was a lot of real history with a big impact woven into this story, some things I knew and some that surprised me and all things that it was good to feel the emotions of, to be reminded of. Like Operation Paperclip wasn't a pretend operation in the book where the U.S. took German superheroes and ...more
Laura Hughes
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Violent Century is unlike anything I’ve ever read. A tale of conflict, espionage and superheroes set mainly during the various conflicts of the 20th century, it is most often compared to Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Suffused with the moody intrigue of a John le Carre novel and written in a postmodern style similar to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Lavie Tidhar’s standalone novel explores the hypothetical role of superheroes in historical conflicts, focusing in particular on World War II.

The majority
Alex Sarll
The great and the good queue up to compare this to le Carré doing cold war superheroes, or Nietzsche writing the X-Men. Which I'm fairly sure some of the better X-Men runs already were, not to mention at least one of the early films, and The Violent Century never quite shakes a sense of being less revolutionary, and closer to its parent genre, than the illustrious blurbers (and perhaps its author too) seem to think. True, there is that same sense, as in le Carré, of an underlying futility to thi ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second read by the author, following his latest book. This one is actually a rerelease from years ago. And I’m thinking Tidhar is an author best appreciated from a rear view mirror perspective. Or, is that doesn’t come across as flatteringly as it’s meant to, his work is the forest not the trees. The trees are easy to get hung up on, because there are so many. And his writing may not be for everyone, in this book there are terrific descriptions, but they read like stage directions. An ...more
originally posted at:

If you drop the name Lavie Tidhar to anyone who is reading science fiction or fantasy they are bound to say, isn't he the guy that won the 2012 World Fantasy Awards with his book Osama? Yes you are correct. Now I have been unfortunate in not having been able to read it, but when I saw that Hodder and Stoughthon were publishing another book of him, about superheroes, well I was excited to say the least. With Lavie Tidhar's praises in t
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic - literally - work of imagination by one of the great SF writers of the present time. It starts as a sort of Nietzschean riff on "Captain America", the conceit being that all sides in the Second World War actually *did* have their own secret corps of agents with superpowers (i.e. 'Uebermenschen') and weaves this into an account of the late 20th century via modifications to real lives and historical events associated with that period of wars and intrigue. And as always, Tidhar elevates ...more
Nick Sayce
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Not since Alan Moore's The Watch Men have I read a superhero tale of such magnitude that I never wanted it to end.
The book is awesome and written in a way that makes it all feel so believable. The beyond-men feel so real. They are flawed, confused and yet also heroic - showing that in war everyone believes they are fighting on the right side.
The book is steeped in history, using real life individuals who help convey the true horrors of war.
Plus the prose of the book, though it may take a while
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads, my-books
I'm deeply impressed and emotionally touched.

What makes a man? What makes a hero?
These two questions appear again and again within the story. Fortunately Lavie Tidhar avoided to answer these questions. It is up to the reader to find his/her answer after reading the book.

This is definitely one of the best books I read in 2014 so far.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was fun and clever and weird and interesting and entertaining and also the kind of genre fiction that can be important too, the kind I really love that says a lot while it entertains. There was a lot of real history with a big impact woven into this story, some things I knew and some that surprised me and all things that it was good to feel the emotions of, to be reminded of. Like Operation Paperclip wasn't a pretend operation in the book where the U.S. took German superheroes and scientists ...more
David Harris
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first thing to address reviewing this book - the unavoidable, obvious, distinctive thing - is the style. When I was 30 or 40 pages in, I nearly gave up with it. The way it's written is so distinctive, so odd. No speech marks. Present tense. Laconic. like this:

The Old Man says, Where is the boy?
- He's waiting, Deutsch says.
- Then let's pick up the pace, shall we?

Hovering over all is an unseen "we". We see this or hear that. "We" is a jaded, slightly cynical voice. Seen it all, or most of it.
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: review-copy

The Violent Century was a book I was very excited to read. It had an awesome premise and came highly recommended. Fogg and Oblivion are superheroes – Fogg creates fog and can create things from that fog, Oblivion makes things cease to exist. A World War II-Cold-War era setting with superheroes – what could go wrong? The narrative did it in for me. Tidhar writes in a strange way where quotes don’t exist. If someone says something, it’s like Tidhar describes
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
German review

Wow! This book makes it subsequently to my best of 2013 list. I just saw it in an io9 article and just had to read it. An alternate history story where 1932 a failed experiment gives a small amount of people in the world superpowers. We jump around wildly in the time between then, multiple wars and the present time. And you get a very X-Men+Watchmen esque novel, with an amazing prose that gives the book an unique tone. I never read anything quite like it, a strange form of narratio
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2017
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Jonathan Keeble who was fantastic. To be honest, I'm not sure I would have finished the book in print. It started off very strong and I liked the writing style. I found the characters interesting, but the story jumped all over the place, both in time and location, and I had difficulty keeping up with where the narrative was taking place. I found my attention wandering and despite parts of the story putting me on the edge of my seat, other sections ...more
Jun 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
3.5 stars. 20, maybe even 10, years ago, this would have been cutting edge and original. Now, well, it was good, but not great, and didn't really tread and new ground. A vastly better superhero/WWII mashup is Ian Tregillis's Milkweed Triptych.
Stephen Brophy
For literary classicists and cultural gatekeepers, even in this enlightened postmodern age, it’s probably still hard to convince the bulk of them that any story containing superpowered people with offbeat costumes and absurd codenames could even aspire to literary merit. Sure, a few have tried, most notably Jonathan Lethem with his well-regarded Fortress of Solitude, but even Michael Chabon didn’t dare let Kavalier & Clay’s fictitious comic book creation, the Escapist, out into the real-worl ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1932, a scientist flipped a switch on a device without quite knowing what it would do. The device created a bunch of super-powered humans around the world, super-powered humans who are a lot like the X-Men. In Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century, we see an alternate history of the twentieth century, the way it would have played out if there had been superheroes running around the battlefields of World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War. There’s even a cheeky cameo by one Stanley Martin Lieber.. ...more
Greg Eccles
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
It had an interesting, if already done, premise. A take on superheroes being present during world war 2 and on. It never really developed further or expanded into an interesting take. The style was jarring and choices with the layout made it deliberately difficult to follow.

Throughout the book it hints at some darker mystery or further events. It seems like they are building around some pivotal event where in its final reveal it would all make sense and leave you feeling fulfilled. The climax w
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What makes a man? What makes a hero? Both are questions often asked by different characters throughout Lavie Tidhar's The Violent Century. In some ways these are the central questions to the narrative, but neither question is answered in a definitive fashion. The reader is left to formulate her own answer. Tidhar's story is set over the course of the twentieth century, whose violent years gave rise to many heroes, both the comic book kind and those of flesh and blood The narrative shows us these ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
It has been awhile since I've read a superhero-based comic book. Although recently super-hero novels have become popular. This is a rather well-written, example of that genre. It is a mash-up of comic book Golden Age superheroes updated to modern Marvel X-Men standards and MI6 spymaster fiction.

The writing is very good. That includes dialog, descriptive, and action sequence prose. It’s also British. The story has two POVs, and is made-up of out-of-order flashbacks going back through The (Violen
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Lavie Tidhar was raised on a kibbutz in Israel. He has travelled extensively since he was a teenager, living in South Africa, the UK, Laos, and the small island nation of Vanuatu.

Tidhar began publishing with a poetry collection in Hebrew in 1998, but soon moved to fiction, becoming a prolific author of short stories early in the 21st century.

Temporal Spiders, Spatial Webs won the 2003 Clarke-Bradb
“Perhaps it is always summer, in the place where we are young.” 2 likes
“Think of the future, she whispers. Jumbled images in primary colours. White and red swastika flags waving in the wind; gleaming rockets flying into the air; skyscrapers rise above the Danube, the Thames, the Volga and the Rhine, blond children play under a bright African sun, their uniforms ironed to perfection by their servant-slaves nearby, modern women work at factories assembling Volkswagens, in the mountains in a wood cabin Maria and Erich and their three children go on a skiing holiday, laughing, holding hands…” 1 likes
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