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The Stranger

(Лабиринты Ехо #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  3,506 ratings  ·  208 reviews
The millions-selling fantasy epic of the new Russian literary icon-a freeloading freebooter who finds a new home in a magical world

Max Frei's novels have been a literary sensation in Russia since their debut in 1996, and have swept the fantasy world over. Presented here in English for the first time, The Stranger will strike a chord with readers of all stripes. Part fanta
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Harry N. Abrams (first published 1996)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  3,506 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
DNF at 19%

Max Frei was a typical good-for-nothing loser; his achievement was being good absolutely for nothing. Suddenly he ended up in a magical land and it turns out he is the most useful guy around: everything he did was great, everybody loved him, and his boss made him compliments non-stop. He was working in Department of Absolute Order - secret service of the said magic land; James Bond and Sherlock Holmes put together had nothing on him.
Secret Service
The book consists of several interconnected novellas
Oct 25, 2009 rated it liked it
-I have read it in Russian first. And was really looking forward to read it english. When I did I was very disappointed, since book heavily relies on dialogs and funny moments related to the differences of idioms in Echo in comparison to then Max is used to, a creative translation was absolutely crucial and it was not done so the final product is bellow 0 for me. Moreover after translation book turned so impersonal it is almost impossible to connect to the main character, this probably due to th ...more
Ieva Gurklyte
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book like 10 times now! I love Echo, all the characters, their funny conversations and magic without logic and explanations. The thing is, I read the series as much as they are published in Lithuanian and I found the translation really good. Maybe it is because it is Eastern Europe and kind of similar cultural background (like all the jokes, irony and etc., oh, and the author is living Vilnius, Lithuania). I found English translation a bit disappointing but unless you speak Russ ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in Russian in 2000, when it was published under the name of "The Labyrinth". I've read it about 15 times since then. Now I'm enjoying every second of reading the translated version of it.
Once you get accustomed to the writer's quaint manner of writing you will love it too. The first thing that meets the eye is the unique style of narration and the unusual choice of words. It's not casual, but not as pompous and epic as traditional fantasy. It's rather self-ironic and even sarcas
Scott Fabel
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book, which was originally published in Russia in 1996, introduces the main character (and pseudonymous author) to a completely new world called the Unified Kingdom. After being a complete loser on Earth, Max finds himself as the Nocturnal Representative of the Most Venerable Head of the Minor Secret Investigative Force of the city of Echo. Essentially, he investigates magical mysteries and crimes in this new world. As it turns out, he's quite good at his new job--not a loser at all.

Each ch
Omg, I can't even describe this books series properly without bursting into a loud cry :D
It's is just best story that ever read, ever!! I read the first book when I was about 12 year old and still no book or books series can out rival Max...The author is amazing, and most of all.. She lives in my country's capital city!!! Omg...

So, If you are still just considering reading this book, don't. DO IT. It is complete wonder. But the only problem is, there is only one book translated now, but all boo
Aug 01, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy
I wouldn't normally review a book that I haven't finished reading, but I've (at least temporarily) given up on this in favour of other books - and I think that lack of interest is worth a note. Whatever The Stranger tells you it is on the cover, don't believe a word of it. It's not. What it is instead is a strange piece of fantasy where the author is working so hard at creating something original that he's ended up creating something fairly bonkers (and not in a good way). The intricate details ...more
Petra Eriksson
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
It took me a while before I finally got passed the first chapter, for unknow reason it was a struggle. But when I finally did it sure didn't take long before I had finished it. You can't help to like the characters,I especially liked Max and Lookfi but have a soft heart for all of them, the surroundings, the magic, the plot and the dialouge... that's about everything... ^^ I kept thinking while reading it that it would be fun to see it all turned into a movie, for I think it would be a good one, ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Max Frei is a loner in the world, a bit of a chain-smoking bum who's tried fitting in and being normal but doesn't have the heart for it. Only in his dreams is he truly alive. In his dreams, things seem so real that he acts upon them in waking life: if he meets a beautiful new woman in his dreams, he'll break up with his real-life girlfriend. He can quote from books he's read only in his dreams, and visit other places.

One such place he visits regularly is a strange city where the streets are pav
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

"Max Frei" - ie Svetlana Martynchik - has published this mammoth series Labyrinths of Echo of which The Stranger is the opening - I think it's 10 volumes so far - to great acclaim and success in Russia and Europe from the mid 90's on, so I was very curious about this book.

Overall I was disappointed because the book just did not engage me; it's not bad but I've read too many similar but better books to waste too much time on it.

I could not care less about its main character or the rest of the
Elvira Atvara
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Take Terry Prattchet and mix his Discworld with a bit of Harry Potter's adventures and you will get the general idea of the awesomeness of this book. It is ironic and funny, but not to the extent of Discworld, where there is more ironical discourse than action.

There is only one little criticism... Frei should never be read when hungry or full, because no matter what, it makes you crave food with its mouthwashing descriptions of Chakata pie and other magical foods. The best condition for this bo
Karla Huebner
Review of this book are sharply divided between those who adore it and those who were deeply disappointed and felt it didn't live up to its billing as brilliant, hilarious, satirical, and philosophical. A third category of reviews deals with the problem of translation: some readers loved it in Russian but think the English translation is a flop, or that perhaps the book can't quite be translated. While I don't read Russian, I think my reaction has to fall into the third category.
First off: no, I
I read it in Russian (my native language) ... Believe me, in Russian it's really very funny and interesting book! " The Stranger" is just the first book in a series of " The Labyrinths Of Echo" But in series are 15 books! The eighth, ninth and tenth are my favorite .. But in English ... Sorry, but this is not such a good :( I hope that soon there will be more high-quality translation into English!
But take my word for it, Max Frei is really good writer, but his books are very hard to translate ..
Apr 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
For all of the English speaking readers out there I would like to point out that the translation of this amazing book has gone beyond salvagable. Not only do parts of text seem to be missing but also other parts of text seemingly appear out of nowhere(!). Some jokes have gotten simply scrapped, literally scrapped, and at parts the characters react differently from in the book. e.g.: somebody scowling at a joke instead of laughing out loud [page 107(E), 126(R)]. This is only one example among hun ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
What a complete waste of time. The idea that this is only the first in a series of volumes makes me contemplate dramatic self-injury. Seriously, given the choice of not being able to read for pleasure for a decade or reading the next installment of Frei's saga, I'd go philistine in a minute.

The premise of this book was so promising - indeed, I discovered it in the Russian section of Idlewild Books in Manhattan this summer, and later ordered a used copy on amazon. Looking back on the back cover
Oct 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
Hmm. Has anyone out there read this in the original Russian? Or any language other than English?
I really hated the way it was written, but I think that might be the fault of the translator.
The story itself was actually kind of charming, in a Gilbert and Sullivan Meet Sam Spade in Oz kind of way.
Ksenia Chernyshova
Such a nice vacation for my brain
It's not you, it's me.

I just can't get into the writing style of this book, so much so that I dread picking it up to read every time I look at it. I wanted to love this one, it sounds AMAZING (and with the GR rating over 4 stars, it probably is), I just don't think this relationship is going to work.
Albina Galiullina
It's hard to express what this book is about. The plot is pretty simple, but this is not why you would want to read it for. It is more about the feelings evoked by reading. Something warm and soft...maybe something like kamra?
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful book. Just when I thought I was nearing the end, another story would appear. Another reviewer called this "interconnected novellas" and I think they nailed it. The *main* line is about Max himself and not just one adventure. I'm not sure if it's because it was translated from Russian or just the names of the characters, but I had a hard time remembering who was who, and understanding what some things were. I felt it was a unique book and I look forward to getting the second ...more
Tim Hicks
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I don't speak Russian so I will have to judge the English version on its own merits.
I liked it a lot.

Others have compared it to Harry Potter but I think that's off the mark. More like a combination of Jack Vance and Steven Brust.

Some have said it's a series of pointless episodes; I disagree. I kept catching little hints about what's really going on here and how it relates to our hero's home world. I may be wrong here, because if there really are ten volumes in this series it shouldn't take t
Where do you shelve a book that you won't finish reading? It would be disingenuous to place it on the read shelf, and yet it does not belong on the to-read shelf since I have no intention of returning to it. Is the only other option to delete it altogether? My solution was to create a new did-not-finish shelf. I wouldn't say this book is so dreadful it deserves the ignominy of being the sole occupant of this undesirable shelf, but I don't want to accumulate books on this shelf, either.

This book
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About half-way through the book I realized that the structure is mostly a collection of stories about Max and his life in Echo, rather than a chronological account. This is really my only complaint (that and the next book is only now being translated into English). I want to see more development in Max's character, and he stays pretty static throughout. That being said, I love these stories. One of the reviews calls Max Frei "Harry Potter with cigarettes" and that's very true. There is a magical ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyable, off-kilter, engaging nonsense. Lovely.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best stories I have ever read...
Всеволод Рычков
Rereading this book was a great experience. This is an unusual book. I understand this now more than when I was reading it back in 2007, I've read more books now and this one still stands out.

The great thing about this book is that it submerges you in an emotional state of comfortable uncertainty – you don't know what to expect but you know it's going to be pleasant and magical.

I tried preparing for a tabletop role-playing game in the universe of this book, but it seems incredibly difficult, the
Molly Mix
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The hero of this book was advertised as a grown up Harry Potter, if Harry Potter drank and smoke cigarettes and swore. Since I haven't read Harry Potter yet (I know, I know!), that didn't mean a whole heck of a lot to me. I mean, I know a little. And I have seen the first few movies. Regardless, I was intrigued. It took a while to get into, I'll admit - it took me nearly year to finish the first quarter of the book, reading just a few pages at a time. Once it hit its stride, it took just a week ...more
Maxim Priakhin
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's my guilty pleasure book. World is beautiful, magical and vibrant, really one where you would be happy to lost yourself in, characters are funny and likable. Short stories which this book consists of are interesting and entertaining.

But at the same time, I'm getting tired of "chosen one" thingy. Main character has too much power (even though he barely controls it) and get everything way too easy which stops a character development. I just truly wish they would make it a little more deep in
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Escapism at its finest.
If you’re looking for a complex plot full of action and conflicts, this is not the book for you. I can only describe this book as cosy, a read that you really look forward to come back to after a day of hard work and worries IRL to be swept away into the fascinating and welcoming world of Echo.
Max is a young man in his twenties suffering from mild depression who cannot find a suitable place for himself in our world on Earth and has troubles accepting the mundane routine of
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Макс Фрай

"Max Frei" is a pen-name of Svetlana Martynchik. She has created the well-known Echo series. Svetlana Yuryevna Martynchik is a Russian writer and artist.

Martynchik studied at the philological department of Odessa State University, but dropped out without graduating. Martynchik lived in Moscow since 1993 and lives in Vilnius since 2004.

For more details see Wikipedia: Svetlana M


Other books in the series

Лабиринты Ехо (8 books)
  • Волонтеры вечности (Лабиринты Ехо, #2)
  • Простые волшебные вещи (Лабиринты Ехо, #3)
  • Темная сторона (Лабиринты Ехо, #4)
  • Наваждения (Лабиринты Ехо, #5)
  • Власть несбывшегося (Лабиринты Ехо, #6)
  • Болтливый мертвец (Лабиринты Ехо, #7)
  • Лабиринт Мёнина (Лабиринты Ехо, #8)

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