Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, creates a compelling reality in this tale about an illiterate America in the not-too-distant future. Lenny Abramov may just be penning the world’s last diary. Which is good, because while falling in love with a rather unpleasant woman and witnessing the fall of a great empire, Lenny has a lot to write about.
©2010 Gary Shteyngart (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
"Shteyngart's earnestly struggling characters—along with a flurry of running gags—keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart's best yet." (Publishers Weekly)
"Full-tilt and fulminating satirist Shteyngart is mordant, gleeful, and embracive as he funnels today's follies and atrocities into a devilishly hilarious, soul-shriveling, and all-too plausible vision of a ruthless and crass digital dystopia in which techno-addled humans are still humbled by love and death." (Booklist)
“It’s not easy to summarize Shteyngart; there’s so much satirical gunpowder packed into every sentence that the effect gets lost in the short version. But basically, this is a love story [that is] ridiculously witty and painfully prescient, but more than either of those, it’s romantic." (Time)
I enjoy plot driven novels; I enjoy character driven novels...This one was neither. The best thing I can say is to mention why I never thought reading someone else's journal or diary would hold an interest for me: like most people, these characters are insanely ordinary and boring! I bought it for the premise, but unlike some other reviewers ("Our 1984," really?) it was at best, mocking. And as for characters I've found the teenagers in my neighborhood more interesting.
I liked the overall concept of the story. I least liked the minutia, which I understand was meant to color the story, but I felt I had to just bear it until the story progressed again.
I would recommend it to some friends; to the ravenous readers that enjoy consuming all novels.
I thought the narration was well done.
This was a pleasant way to spend some summer hours.
This book is a well-written and preformed warning, one that we need to take seriously. Set in an undefined near-future, Shteyngart paints a portrait of a dystopia we are already teetering on. In the book, the US is dominated by a totalitarian bureaucracy that is desperately trying to keep it's economy afloat with complex financing schemes that remain incomprehensible to most Americans (sound familiar?). The day to day world is dominated by a computer that everyone carries with them, clogged with useless facts and celebrity gossip. "News" is opinion, and the principle opinion that matters is your ranking that is constantly being updated by a mysterious algorithm. Our hapless hero, Lennie, falls for the "ideal" girl—a young, slim Asian woman, obsessed by fashion and her ranking. The affair is doomed (I'm not giving anything away, it's in the title), yet Shteyngart manages to keep us involved and invested in the story.
Ali Ahn does a great job preforming the role of the self-absorbed Eunice Park. Adam Grupper as Lennie has a much more difficult task (Lennie is a bit of a schlimazel), yet rises to it quite well. Eunice grows a little bit during the course of the book - she is very young, after all. But Lennie, nearing 40, still hasn't learned to question his surroundings or his choices — he stands as a warning to us all.
I was surprised to read the reviews of others who seemed to think nothing happens in the second half of the book. This is the part where everything comes to a head; the affair of the main title reaches it's inevitable end, a major character comes to a Brazil-like end, the dystopian society crumbles in spectacular fashion. This book is haunting and memorable—one of the best listens of the year for me.
I really liked the way this novel started. It was interesting and original. When the "love story" started, I found myself losing interest. The main character becomes unlikable as he gets involved with an extremely unpleasant girl. I was not worried particularly about any of their fates and kind of wanted to get it over with. I was also annoyed by the way the author rhapsodizes about Eunice's thinness for pages and pages, but then makes fun of the way women are obsessed with weight. There were a lot of genuinely funny parts, though, and I thought the performers were really exceptional, as well.
I loved this book...I think I loved it more because I listened to it, which isn't always the case. The narrators are absolutely perfect and the story is just as promised - super sad, but also hilarious.
I heard an interview with the author on CBC radio and thought the concept sounded interesting. The dear diary format, in a whining tone almost convinced me to abort within the forst 10 minutes. I stuck it out for a couple more driving hours, but eventually abandoned the book and reverted to the radio.
I know a book is not going to be good when I a) look to see how much time is remaining on my ipod -- I was a fourth of the way into it when I started doing that, and b) I start to write a review before I'm finished.
If it was supposed to be satire, it was a weak effort. The characters are all unlikeable in varying degrees and the backstory is vague -- which would be alright if the real story was remotely interesting.
This is the only audible book that I have not finished. I purchased it after I heard the author interviewed on NPR. I thought the book would be thought provoking. I only found it depressing and the characters shallow.
One of the problems of likening a book to a predecessor in the same genre (in this case, Orwell’s dystopian “1984”), is that if it doesn’t measure up then it’s often labeled a failure when it was quite a good book in its own right.
This book falls short of being good not only when compared to Orwell, but also when compared depth-wise to anything most of us wrote in the fourth grade.
The story is told through the “diaries” of the protagonist, Lenny—mostly self-pitying, though highly descriptive, diatribes of whining which the author hopes will make us “identify” with his pathetic state—and the “Global Teen Account” messages of the protagonist’s object of immature desire and pathetic fixation—the whiny, selfish, superficial (though she does community service—is this meant to suggest a flicker of depth?) Eunice Park. The story is flat, whiny, devoid of depth and symbolism, which is rather surprising for an experienced author who has won prestigious fellowships such as that with the American Academy in Berlin. The book purports to be a criticism of a futuristic, intrusive, one-party-run society—hence the allusions by every critic under the sun to Orwell or Aldus Huxley. Rather than critiquing overarching tenets or methods of dystopian societies as Orwell and Huxley did, it resorts to lazy cheap shots at the modern American far right. (People in this society can only watch “Fox Liberty Prime” or “Fox Liberty Ultra,” for example.)
In short: If I wanted to read a whiny, flat account of how the stupid, intrusive American right is “destroying the world,” I would have logged on to the blog of a high school-educated Hollywood star.
This should be required reading for the X and Y generations, as well as those that wish to understand them better.
Very clever and just the type of material that I think is ideal for an audible experience.
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