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The Great Glass Sea

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  432 ratings  ·  103 reviews
From celebrated storyteller Josh Weil comes an epic tragedy of brotherly love, a sui generis novel swathed in all the magic of Russian folklore and set against the dystopian backdrop of an all too real alternate present.

Twin brothers Yarik and Dima have been inseparable since childhood. Living on their uncle’s farm after the death of their father, the boys once spent their
Hardcover, 474 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Grove Press (first published June 3rd 2014)
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3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  432 ratings  ·  103 reviews

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Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia
This big deep wonderful plunge of a novel--THIS is exactly why I love fiction, wanted to be a writer in the first place. The Great Glass Sea is set in an alternative Russia, a speculative present that posits the cultivation of light by use of mirrors to create the Oranzheria, a mass greenhouse which begins to take over the entire region, banning night in favor of perpetual sunshine--run by contemporary oligarch named Bazarov (for those of you who enjoy that kind of thing, the reference to Turgen ...more
Kat Heckenbach
May 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I get that literary writing is about the words, not just the story. It's more character-driven, the plot often hard to truly define as you watch a character grow and experience their heart and soul. Great literary fiction makes you stop and savor the writing itself. I've read books like that, in which the writing sank in and I could taste the flavor of every sentence--while connecting to the characters. Unfortunately, that didn't happen here. It felt as if the author was aspiring for that effect ...more
Karen Rose
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is now on my top 10 list of favorites of all time. Right up there with People of the Book. It is a modern-day Russian fable, a love story of twin brothers struggling with the new Russia, a struggle of the agrarian/socialist/capitalist transition that changes everything. Imagine a glass greenhouse built over the state of Minnesota by a billionaire with mirrors on satellites which make white nights all year round. I could go on and on....but just trust me, this book is brilliant! For an ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Russian billionaire Boris Bazarov places space mirrors in orbit to catch the light of the sun at all hours, creating perpetual daytime under a sea of glass in Petroplavilsk and the surrounding rural communities, near the giant inland Lake Onega. Twins Yarik and Dima find themselves working side-by-side, trying to get ahead. Their paths diverge as Yarik is married with children and is promoted by Bazarov while Dima wishes for a simpler life as a Russian peasant. The grand scheme here is a portray ...more
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had the opportunity to meet Josh Weil last week and hear him talk about the book, his process and his time in Russia. I found the story compelling on several levels and very well written. I didn't feel like I was reading an America writing about Russia, but rather a person with deep familiarity and a sense of connection to the country and its' people.
Fabulous book, beautifully written.
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Josh Weil's lovely new book, spinning a relatively realistic story from a fantasy premise, asks: What might happen if you take wintery, gloomy Russia and invent mirrored sun-reflecting satellites to make 24-hour daylight? Well, the result here is that no one gets weekends anymore... any day off of work is extremely rare. They use that time to build a gigantic greenhouse, miles across, the "Great Glass Sea" of the title. That requires buying up properties and destroying everything more than two s ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
What Weil creates here is an alternate reality for current-day Russia. There are mirror panels put into place that create daylight all day long for the entire year. This creates a work force that never stops.

The story of old vs. new is paralleled in the story of twin brothers, Yarik and Dima. Yarik buys into the idea that working is the best for the community. He is promoted and enjoys the spoils the money provides for his wife and children. Dima is stuck on the idea that one day the two brothe
I'm actually going to refrain from writing much of anything about this novel.

It just simply didn't take for me. When I was approved by Grove Atlantic to be an early reader of this novel, I was aware that the modern sections of this story are set in an "alternate present" Russia, which made me slightly nervous, but the further promises of Russian folklore and brotherly love made me certain I would like the story.

I didn't dislike it, but I also just stopped reading. It simply didn't compel me to c
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
The Great Glass Sea is a beautiful book. The language is lyrical, the concept (near future orbiting mirrors create endless daylight for an enormous greenhouse in Russia) is clever, and the story about the relationship of twin brothers is intensely moving. I find that I’m drawn to stories about sibling conflicts (that’s what I liked most about Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys), and that’s really at the heart of Josh’s book. So, on all those levels, this is a deeply rewarding read.

Read my full
Jul 02, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
Ooh ooh ooh. Says Flavorwire: Weil’s novel bends genres, uses Russian folklore, and gives you enough little philosophical nuggets to bite on to fill your July quota for strange, but totally engrossing novels.
Aline Ohanesian
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book renewed my faith in fiction. It's exactly the kind of book that made me want to write. Brilliant. Moving. Thought provoking. It made me want to be a better writer, or die trying.
First Reads Review - The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

This is a difficult book to review, in part because my expectations going into it were so very different from what actually ended up being the book. I should say, from the description I was thinking this was going to be a magic realism sort of contemporary fantasy set in Russia. The set in Russia part of that was correct, but this is not a fantasy. It's more a science fiction given the satellites that beam down sunlight from space to power the
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil is a superbly crafted, warped dystopian tale set in an alternative Russia, where twins Yarik and Dima grew up in the farm of their uncle after the death of their father. When they became young men, both the brothers find themselves working on Oranzheria, an acres-wide sea of glass lit by space mirrors that is meant to bath the citizens of Petroplavilsk in perpetual daylight, trying to eke out their future. But it is no easy life for the brothers. Dima becomes res ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Breathtakingly beautiful.
Joe Oaster
Aug 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
I had a very difficult time with this book and I often don’t stop reading book. But I got over 100 pages in and could not read any more. I am not sure where the book was going or with any point.

this is probably only the second book in the last 5 years I could not finish.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed-library
Here's another book from an author that was one of Buzzfeed's "20 Under 40 Debut Writers You Need to Be Reading," the same list that gave me Land of Love and Drowning. I suppose it's coincidence, but this book, by Josh Weil, also has elements of blood relatives being far too close to each other. In this case, it's identical twins and at least there's no incest.

There are chapters here that are truly fantastic. You just fall into them. And the book improves the closer you get to the end. But also
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-dystopia, russia
Hektarweit breitet sich in Russland eine riesige Fläche aus Glasplatten über der Oranzeria aus, dem größten Gewächshaus der Welt, das rund um die Uhr mithilfe von Spiegeln im Weltraum beleuchtet wird. Das größenwahnsinnige Bauwerk wirkt wie eine Halskrause, die jemand der Welt umgelegt hat. In diesem monströsen Projekt arbeiten wie in einer Fabrik zur Erzeugung von Lebensmitteln die Zwillingsbrüder Dimitri und Jaroslaw. Sie selbst sind vaterlos in einer winzigen Hütte aufgewachsen und haben Märc ...more
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Debut novel - an epic tragedy of brotherly love boldly swathed in the magic of Russian folklore and set against the backdrop of an all-too-real alternate present.

Twin brothers Yarik and Dima have been inseparable since childhood. Living on their uncle's farm after the death of their father, the boys once spent their days in collective fields, their nights spellbound by their uncle's mythic tales. Years later, the two men labor side by side at the Oranzheria, a sea of glass - the largest greenhou
Kristina Stefanko
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I finished my second book, "The Great Glass Sea." It feels like it took me forever to read this book. However, after finishing this book, I LOVE IT! It was a nice step up from the easy-to-read YA that seems so popular nowadays (though I love it, too). There were a few times I felt the author could have omitted some description of the surroundings. It felt too interjected at some points. But otherwise, I love how descriptive the book was; it painted such a beautiful scene.

The two brothers are in
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Despite this going on far too long (about 1/3 could have been cut and this would have easily been a 5 star), I enjoyed entering this world. Even the interspersed (untranslated) Russian words didn't disrupt the read, nor did it feel as pretentious as it does in, say, a Cara Black mystery.

The Great Glass Sea is a gigantic, city-sized greenhouse created by a Russian oligarch, making use of an array of solar panels that reflect the sun back at the earth so there's no differential between night and d
Fantasy Literature
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
It’s difficult to write a comprehensive yet succinct critique of a work by someone who understands storytelling from the bones outward, who writes unsentimentally about a place he loves and uses exquisite language while doing it. That’s my particular challenge with Josh Weil’s literary novel The Great Glass Sea.

I’m reviewing The Great Glass Sea for our Edge of the Universe column because the springboard for the story is an audacious SF what-if: What if orbiting space mirrors could provide 24 hou
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this novel mesmerizing. Josh Weil hits and holds an alchemical vein of poetically nostalgic Slavic melancholy; twin brothers who are archetypally both intertwined and at catastrophic odds (Cain & Abel, Vali & Sugriva, Romulus and Remus); oligarchic and inhumane capitalists, rotted-through state communists, and exuberantly narcissistic anarchists; and the eternally opposed human impulses to nest in childhood's familiar world versus to separate and claim one's own adulthood. With d ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
*Provided through Goodreads Giveaway!*

The Great Glass Sea is definitely a complex work and was intended to be. It's about two twin brothers in a slightly different Russia who grow up entirely codependent, surviving their family troubles by listening to their uncle's Old Russian folktales about Baba Yaga and Chudo Yudo. Their lives take different turns, however, when one gets married and their are faced with work in the giant greenhouse that is lit 24/7 with giant mirror satellites.

It's impressi
Maureen O'Leary
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To be honest with you, I had a hard time going back to my normal life after finally finishing The Great Glass Sea. This story, set in a speculative Russia, is about twin brothers who head in opposite directions after a strange encounter with the oligarch in charge of the enormous green house structure where they work. One advances in his career, and the other stops going to work altogether. The grim fairy tale world where people slog to work every single day of the week in pursuit of cheap consu ...more
Rob Hermanowski
I received this amazing book as part of the Powell's Indiespensable book series. Josh Weil has written a novel set in a near-future alternative Russia which features a huge greenhouse structure continuously lit from space by large orbiting mirrors. Although the modified farmland is incredibly productive, the cost of so altering the natural life cycle for both animals and people is enormous. The twin brother protagonists take very different paths through this strange new Russia. Weil has written ...more
I often image the space in a forest from ground to treetop as an underwater sea so I was immediately captivated by the imagery of a giant greenhouse as a great glass sea. That was the easy part! This book is complex and well worth some devoted reading time. Satellite mirrors convey sunlight into dark of Russia where an immense glass ceiling is rolled out by workers 7 days a week, transforming landscape into greenhouse and altering everything in its path. Two brothers follow a poetic path of deep ...more
Tad Bartlett
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The lush attention to both the exterior world and the characters' interior world is as beautifully rendered here as in Weil's New Valley collection. But the story itself is so much more layered and rich than even those novellas had been. I was gripped completely by the depiction of love--between brothers, between uncles and nephews, mothers and sons, sons and fathers, chance encounters. And that such multi-faceted social critique could exist within all of this, and not feel pasted on, or feel li ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mfa
I had been wanting to read THE GREAT GLASS SEA for a long time when I finally found a copy in a wonderful bookstore. I almost worried the story wouldn't live up to my yearning to read it. But it is amazing-- a blend of folk tale, children's stories, dark realism, speculative glimpses at the near future, and a genuine account of the type of bond that can never be kept close enough. The prose is lyrical and powerful, and the scenes are well-crafted. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookgroup
Beautifully written exploration of the moral and and other choices we make as the world "advances" around us. It has a fable-like quality that makes for somewhat exaggerated character traits, but it also has some biting comments on growth-at-all-costs> capitalism. The Russian setting gives it some additional color, even though it is aimed directly at an American audience. There are more layers in it than this short description might indicate - highly recommended.
Jesús Tapia
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Great Glass Sea" by Josh Weil is a very unique book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's a mix of folklore, history, sci-fi, dystopia, and overall good writing. It's a complex story with characters who are anything but one dimensional as they take on life in a dystopian Russia. Once I found the rhythm of the flow, I was hooked. This is a book that needs to be read as if it is being told to you by a masterful storyteller.
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Josh Weil is the author of the novel The Great Glass Sea, forthcoming from Grove Atlantic in July, 2014, and the novella collection The New Valley (Grove Atlantic, 2009).

A New York Times Editors Choice, The New Valley won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New Writers Award from the GLCA, and a “5 Under 35” Award from the National Book Founda