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I Am Radar: A Novel

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,478 ratings  ·  314 reviews
“Big, beautiful, ambitious . . . It takes narrative magic to pull off such a loopy combination, and luckily, Reif Larsen has it to spare. His prose is addictive and enchanting.” —Los Angeles Times
The moment just before Radar Radmanovic is born, the hospital’s electricity fails. The delivery takes place in total darkness. Lights back on, everyone present sees a healthy b
Paperback, 672 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Penguin Books (first published December 2nd 2014)
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Jameswaldo Larsen, you may have noticed, is deeply into Fantasy. I suspect that car alarm choruses, like many of his factual "mistakes" and anachronisms, are int…moreLarsen, you may have noticed, is deeply into Fantasy. I suspect that car alarm choruses, like many of his factual "mistakes" and anachronisms, are intended reminders that you're not reading biography or history, and can suspend your disbelief as much or as little as you like. In his Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a kid genius falls off a bed in an RV hauled on a freight train that suddenly slams on the brakes. This is a few chapters after he makes a point about how long it takes such a large train to come to a stop: certainly it can not stop fast enough for anyone to be flung off a bed in the train! Is this just bad fiction, or, like the mystic wormholes and the magic power failure, are we getting reminders that we're reading fiction?(less)
Jameswaldo Definitely! Unless you want to rely on microwave radiation performing miracles of modern science, and quantum mechanics directing robotic birds to fly…moreDefinitely! Unless you want to rely on microwave radiation performing miracles of modern science, and quantum mechanics directing robotic birds to fly in beat with drums and radio music.
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Kate Vane
I am Radar begins with the story of Radar, a black boy born to white parents in New Jersey in the 1970s. His mother’s frantic search for answers to this medical mystery eventually brings her into contact with a bizarre group of scientists and performance artists in Norway. His father, traumatised by his World War Two experiences, obsessed with radio, finds they have something in common and Radar’s life changes.

There is so much to admire in this book. How can you not love a story that brings tog
Loring Wirbel
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes a deft hand to write effective adult fairy tales, a genre distinct from fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction, though sharing traits with all three. The writer is freed from the constraints of rational logic, but must use care not to insert too many colorful but extraneous myths that might distract from the narrative. The masters - Fuentes, Pynchon, Le Guin, De Lillo, Murakami, Atwood, Ballard, (insert your favorite name here) - know how to eschew chaos, or use chaos to achieve their ...more
Briar's Reviews
I am Radar by Reif Larsen is a character study of a black man born to white parents.

This book was very slow and hard for me to read, I have to be upfront about that. The book is written beautifully and Reif Larsen is a terrific writer, but I just couldn't get into this book. It took me months to get through because it's so packed full of narrative. It is packed full of science, relationship drama, history and major character conflicts and soul searching.

I wish I would have loved this book more,
Real life never quite measured up to the heightened and precise contours of her literary worlds. A real war was never as true as a fictive one.

I hate posting on what I abandon. This wasn't bad, just mediocre. I Am Radar isn't Neal Stephenson waxing on Pynchon and Enigma-era cryptography, this is a MFA graduate writing a Boy in Striped Pajamas about race, Tesla and the Khmer Rouge.

A-Z Challenge with Karly and Jess

L = Larsen, Reif

3 stars

“And yet sometimes we become the person we most dread. Or maybe we dread most the person we know we are to become.”

The story begins in New Jersey in the 1970s when all of the hospital's electricity mysteriously fails during the delivery of Radar Radmanovic, a black baby born to two white parents who stand in shock at the sight of him. Admist questions of paternity, Radar's father, Kermin Radmanovic never raises any questions but accepts th
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
I am Radar is a molecular orbital, whose narratives are occupied by Reif Larsen’s fevered imagination. The man has painstakingly crafted a secret history of the world where everything is entangled; a history of a history, if you could, in which he tracks Per Røed-Larsen’s history of the performance group Kirkenesferda across time and space. He tunnels deep into personal histories to find parallels in their future selves or eventual progenies, suggesting these events are much more interesting tha ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Should write something on this one. [but first I'm gunna eat my pizza=breakfast. brb] okay now I'm back. While I was eating that pizza, I read this piece from The Millions ::

"The Utopias of Ursula K. Le Guin"
by Kelly Lynn Thomas

As to Larsen's latest here under discussion :: It's good ; but not that good. If it's in the hysterical realism realm, as Moore claims down below, then it's in the Lite category, definitely not in the DFW=Pynchon realm. Fine. I'd sa
I made it to about page 200 and I got to DNF this one. This book is over 600 pages and the thought of pushing myself to finish for any longer was just too much for me. There is too much backstory and not enough actual plot. I do not caaaaare anymore.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age
I Am Radar reminds me of a big, frisky St. Bernard puppy who wants to be loved and who ends up making you laugh with delight at all its tricks. What words would I use to describe the novel? Audacious, swaggering, inimitable, bold, ambitious…well, you get the drift.

Despite over 650 pages, it’s remarkably easy to read. The prose is confident and accessible, and the pages are rife with diagrams, newspaper snippets and photos (reminding me just a tad of Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, both in scope and
Back in August of 2003, when I lived on 89th Street and 3rd Avenue in NYC, I lived through and survived the blackout that plunged the entire Northeast and parts of the Midwest into total darkness and confusion. It should have been terrifying but it wasn’t. I remember the evenings hanging out in my 8th floor apartment, everything bathed in candlelight, windows flung open in the middle of the sweltering night, and thinking, “How cool is this?” Like you’re a kid again, and discover school has been ...more
cardulelia carduelis
Apr 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Let's assume you are a crafty scientist, better trying to communicate your work, and you have a hankering for visual media. Perhaps you'd end up with something akin to an infographic: comprehensive, stylish, factual, at least ideally. A piece of work for the consumption of information, that does as little as possible to confuse or misinterpret but remains pleasing to the eye. In the best possible case, the arrangement of this information would highlight certain truths that weren't as obvious til ...more
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read all my reviews on

During a big black out Radar is born, an ebony skinned baby, to his white parents. His mother's search for an explanation (and possibly a cure) brings them to Norway to a rather peculiar set of artists, physicists and puppeteers.

I don't know where to start. This was definitely different from what I expected, but in a good way. Even though it's quite the story, coming in at over 650 pages, and at times the story is a bit slow, it felt li
Marvin Mathiak
I can't believe I waded through the whole thing! About 1/3 of the way through, I considered tossing it but continued on, all the way to the abrupt, meaningless ending. This book is less interesting than listening to excessively talkative airplane passengers yacking in the seat behind you, making you really glad cell phones aren't allowed on planes.

There is no story to the book, no interesting characters, no plot, just 648 pages of meandering, disjointed babble involving only distantly connected
Angie Reisetter
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: firstreads
I got this from Penguin's First to Read program.

Larsen's telling of the early life of Radar Radmanovic is part historical fiction, part science fiction, and it's beautiful, intricate, and messy. It centers on the performance artistry of a small troupe based in northern Norway, nearly at the Russian border. Its five parts tell of the unlikely interweaving of this troupe and its members, which ultimately include Radar himself. Parts 1, 3, and 5 tell Radar's story. Sections 2 and 4 are beautiful,
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Experimenters and acrobats, puppeteers and fools
Recommended to Alan by: MCL
"A container does not contain something—it 'is said to contain something'. The same can be said of a good book."
—Captain Daneri of the good ship Aleph, p.543
Although this assertion comes quite late in I Am Radar, I think it strikes at the heart of Reif Larsen's remarkable novel—a book which certainly can be said to contain many things... although I'm still not sure what all of them were. This review struggles with that complexity, and I hope you'll bear with me as I ramble.


I Am Radar begins wit
Gregory Butera
I really wanted to love this book, but only loved the first half. I have given it almost a week since I finished to write down my thoughts, and the main feeling I get when I think about it is disappointment. So, three out of five stars. I really enjoyed the artful way the author wrote his characters, and how he told a story. I loved the footnotes and marginalia and diagrams that helped illustrate. I loved how in-depth the author wrote about different eras and different regions of the globe. ...more
No stars since it was unfinished and will not be re read. The first part was great. The second...terrible. Anyway, I will never know because I have lost all desire to read it. Not recommended.
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclosure: I got this as an ARC from Penguin Books, for which I was thrilled as I am a huge fan of Reif Larsen's first novel "The Collected Works of T.S. Spivet." But, I promise this is an honest review.

The only reason I did not give "I Am Radar" five stars is that I would have liked a little more of a conclusion than the book has. I must also admit that there are things I don't understand in Larsen's writings - especially the math/technical sounding things (which could be made up for all I kno
Maunykah Arcelin
(ARC generously provided by Penguin Group The Penguin Press)

This quote (and many others) from the novel sums up what I took from this outstanding novel:

"Quite elegant, yes? The bird in the machine. For our purposes, it's really all we need. Our show relies on building a flock of puppets that all move in conversation, no matter where they are in the world. One is entangled with the next, who is also entangled with the next, who is entangled with the next and so on. It is a kind of collective con
Shawn Thrasher
The pen of Reif Larsen produced some damn fine writing here; this is enviable craftsmanship.

Also, the good fairies of genre one by one visited this piece of literary fiction and bestowed it with their gifts - a kiss from science fiction, a light kiss from fantasy (or magical realism), a big smack from historical fiction. And the bad fairy who wasn't invited to the christening gave it the curse of a ...



. . . truly "what-the-hell-just-happened" kind of ending. Where is the rest of th
AK Mama Reads
Though beautifully written, I Am Radar became sluggish at times. I rather suspect it's more to do with my disconnection to the characters, I didn't feel any attachment throughout the story to keep me interested. There were many intriguing references to historically accurate events that had me Googling like a madwoman, so for that I'm thankful. I enjoyed reading something that transported me to another time, I just couldn't quite grasp why the author felt the need to go into so much detail as to ...more
Joel Wright
I wanted to like this book. It is hugely ambitious, ranging from quantum physics to philosophy to world history to thoroughly developed, believable characters whose stories ultimately intersect. Perhaps more disappointing than the ending, when, after decades of toil (and 600+ pages) the puppeteers finally accomplish their goal - and I am left asking, so what? - the author does not deal with serious ethical issues he raises. Two in particular are racial identity and genocide. His characters exper ...more
Darby Dixon III
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know what the hell this was doing but I enjoyed floating alongside it watching it do it
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as an ARC digital copy and I cannot wait to purchase a print copy when it comes out!

Radar is a child born to a Serbian refugee and American woman in the 1970's. Although they are both "white," he is born coal black, which disturbs his mother and the community. Radar is a gifted child, and like his father is attracted to radio science and later, story telling through puppets. Because of his mother's obsession with "fixing" Radar, they travel to Scandinavia and meet with a rag tag
Burn Adams
In the description of "I Am Radar", it says the book is somewhat about a group of performers who stage amazing and elaborate performances in the middle of nowhere and witnessed by no one. Apparently, these performances are organized by some of the world's most talented individuals and cover a variety of topics so deep (such as quantum physics, philosophical questions on the nature of reality, etc.) that, even if seen by an audience, it would completely go over the heads of the common man.

In my
Monique Snyman
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen is a tome of a book. There's no denying this, I don't care who you are. It's a huge bloody book. This is why it took me so long to get through it, I suppose. Partly. Personally, I don't like wading through a character's whole backstory in order to get to the current story, unless ... no, I hate doing that. Period. But, although I found parts of it to be a bit over-descriptive, the writing was superb. The characters were well-written, and the relationships crafted by the ...more
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this book since it has one of the best blurbs I've read in my life. It raised a lot of questions, which is always a good thing. I started out strong and flew through the first hundred or so pages. At first my interest was confirmed. The story about a special and weird black boy born from white parents and the mother's obsession in trying to "fix" him made for a very interesting read. I enjoyed the writer's style, which was detailed but not over-the-top. The story had a leng ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one would probably get a 2.5. I absolutely adored parts of this book. Other parts could easily have been condensed or even removed. It would have been a better 300 page book vs. a 600+ page book.

The theme of this story would have to be "entanglement": family, technology, etc. A pretty major theme of books and learning also runs through the narrative. Race is also an important theme. Choices and their consequences also play heavily.

I thought I knew what was going on until the last chapter;
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
While the Radmanovic’s hail from very different backgrounds; Kermin, a Serbian immigrant who escaped his war-torn homeland at an early age, and Charlene, a New Jersey born local from a middle-class family, the Caucasian couple were both completely bewildered to find that they had just given birth to a black baby, Radar. While numerous doctors’ appointments, scans and tests failed to provide any information on the matter, years of searching for an answer just wasn’t enough for Charlene. Until one ...more
Jessica Stephenson
I am stunned. I have so many weird feelings about this book. Maybe I can write more once I've had a few days to process it. I may change my rating, as well. I can say that I am so glad I read this novel. ...more
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Reif Larsen’s first novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, was a New York Times bestseller and is currently translated into twenty-seven languages. The novel was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the James Tait Black memorial Prize and was adapted into a movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie). Larsen's essays and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Tin Hous ...more

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