I'd been meaning to dig into Solzhenitsyn since I was a teenager and first became captivated by the haunting song "Mother Russia" by the folk-prog banI'd been meaning to dig into Solzhenitsyn since I was a teenager and first became captivated by the haunting song "Mother Russia" by the folk-prog band Renaissance. Recent events in US politics have put a finer point on that resolve, and made him seem more relevant than at any time since the Glasnost reforms.
As such, this was a depressingly fascinating read. Perhaps not quite so depressing as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which covers one winter day (naturally) in a deadly Siberian labor camp rather than the three December days in a comparatively cushy "Sharashka," or scientific prison complex, where at least they understood that these mostly-political prisoners need to be well fed and not frozen if they are to accomplish the engineering tasks set them. Still, it's prison, and with the perverse Stalinist Soviet interpretation of the Kafkaesque that maddens one's life, and the continual possibility of being sent back to the labor camps, or perhaps even executed outright, forever hanging over one's head.
For all that, when the junta finally rounds me up, I'd still rather this brand of torture than the other, and I feel now like I'll be better prepared for it than most. Completely worth the heartache, even if America never slides back quite that far under Putin's rule....more
Even after reading Night Watch, I was somewhat surprised just how little this book had to do with the Day Watch film. Of course, with the major chanEven after reading Night Watch, I was somewhat surprised just how little this book had to do with the Day Watch film. Of course, with the major changes to the plot which the author himself made to the screenplay, it makes some sense that the film story had to go in a different direction than the books.
It also was surprising to recognize elements of the first film in this book, though perhaps it should not have been since this was published well before the screenplay was even started. But the context for one scene was so different that, once I recognized it, I actually laughed aloud. While I can see how some of the fans of the movies may find this terribly disappointing, wanting to "read the movie" as I initially did, I find it rather clever. As written, these books work well as books, but even I can tell they would not have worked as film, as is so often the case.
The Inquisition factors in much more strongly in the latter two of the three stories contained in this volume, which helps to keep the intrigues between the Watches entertainingly convoluted. The first story almost seems like a throw-away confection, but wait—it factors heavily into much of what follows, and the repercussions are felt even into Twilight Watch. The third story, meanwhile, gets a bit more philosophical, with somewhat less "action" (in the sense of "action film"). Also, as other reviews have noted, much more of this sequence is told from the point of view of Dark Ones, though we do still get plenty of time in Anton's head as well.
Lukyanenko has herein created a wonderful blend of supernatural—action—police-procedural, in a modern world with real depth. I'm sure I'll be sad to reach the end of the series....more
Surprisingly, the movie of the same name appears to be based mostly on just the first of three stories in this book. And there are enough differencesSurprisingly, the movie of the same name appears to be based mostly on just the first of three stories in this book. And there are enough differences between the two to keep one guessing about the outcome, to a degree. The second story picks up chronologically after the first, but bears no relationship to the film apart from the overlapping characters, though some elements appear in a sub-plot of the Day Watch film. The third has still less to do with the screen versions, and digs a little more into characterization while also getting more philosophical.
The whole thing is quite unlike any supernatural-fantasy I've read before—most of which today has develoved into mere "paranormal romance" which this decidedly is not despite the required unrequited love interest—and is therefore a very refreshing take on the genre. This despite the fact that there do appear to be bits in the background that are not to readily comprehensible to an audience that is not immediately familiar with modern Russia, Muscovite geography, or Stalinist history. It's good to have Wikipedia handy if you like catching the subtler references. For example, I was amused to learn—from an oblique reference I happened to look up—that the surname of the protagonist probably derives from the poet Серге́й Митрофа́нович Городе́цкий....more
I guess I read this one to death, as my copy—along with its numerous bookmarks—is disintegrating right along with the republic, which is what finallyI guess I read this one to death, as my copy—along with its numerous bookmarks—is disintegrating right along with the republic, which is what finally spurred me to read it after decades of failed intention.
I want to say this should be required reading in the present political environment, given its connection to an increasingly-authoritarian Russia, where it is reported that Stalin memorabilia is more popular than ever, and as the purges, exiles, and deportations have already begun here in the US along with (arguably, or at least hyperbole) the government terror campaign embodied in routine, daily extrajudicial executions by the police state. However, no one is going to read it simply because I said it's should be required, and I'd rather not require quite a lot of people to read it who would probably take it as a playbook, just as they seem to have done with 1984 (Orwell never imagined we'd pay for the privilege of carrying Big Brother everywhere in our pockets) and other dystopias.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not at all saying that living under the junta that is currently misruling the United States of America is the same as, or even equivalent to, life in the Stalinist USSR. Not in any period, let alone the 1930s. Nevertheless, the parallels are striking, and one can see how the origins of totalitarianism are nascent in the present soi dissant administration, just as one gets to view up close and personally the mass psychology of fascism simply by logging into Twitter.
Can the same thing happen here? No, of course not; history never repeats that closely, and the culture and circumstances are vastly different. Can the same sort of thing happen here? Well, read these books and it should be obvious everywhere you look that, not only can it happen, it is happening right before our very eyes. The purges are in progress, even if we only have the one concentration camp at Guantanamo being underutilized so far.
In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
We, meanwhile, are already on the third or fourth "came for," and somehow we're only rioting in the streets after major championship sporting events, now that we're already tired of rioting to protest yet another dead black body in the streets under a cop.
Last chance, if it's not too late already. Read this and the others if you don't believe me. Watch the patterns unfold. Recognize the rhetoric and the tactics. Then choose....more