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Travels in Siberia Audiobook

Travels in Siberia

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Audible Editor Reviews

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier and read by the author could very simply be described as “Siberia: history of, people of, remoteness of, mythology about, and travels in”. This description would not, however, do justice to the mixture of joy, comedy, and incredulity with which Frazier reads his book.

The author goes to great lengths to explain why he became fascinated by what he calls “the greatest horrible country” in the world. It certainly was not the smell of Russia — the olfactory amalgam of sour milk, cucumber peels, wet cement, and mud that slapped Frazier in the face whenever he first stepped from an airplane into any Russian airport terminal. Nor was it the extraordinary amount of trash that befouled every town, village, and roadside rest stop he visited. Those were merely minor distractions as Frazier continued to try and learn the language, read more books, and visit by car, train, and plane Siberian destinations even more remote and more physically taxing than those on his previous trip. Frazier’s infectious wonder at the breadth of the land and the scope of its history, his wry observations about the incongruities of normal life lived at degrees far below zero, and his hapless and frequently acrimonious adventures with his occasional Russian guide, Sergei Lunev, leave the listener equally enthralled with Siberia.

Frazier has a talent for comically pointing out aspects of Siberian life that are most different from what Americans consider “normal”. For example, curiosity turns to puzzlement then to all-out disbelief as Frazier realizes that couples are holding their weddings literally alongside parts of the trans-Siberian highway. The reality of what is taking place only sinks in as one boisterous celebration spills onto the highway and stops traffic in either direction. Then there is the airport in the town of Providineya, where the rusted wreckage of helicopters and airplanes at the end of the runway greet visitors who, presumably, consider themselves lucky for their safe landing. And there’s the only hotel in the isolated village of Khanyga with its 20 guests but only one bathroom.

Ian Frazier infuses the historical parts of Travels in Siberia with passion for characters from Siberia’s past, such as the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, the American adventurer George Kennan, or the anarchic Decembrists, each providing delightful counterpoints to Frazier’s musings about the eccentricities of modern-day Siberians. Throughout his travels Frazier ponders the concept of “Siberian exile” and how that notion became imbued into the psyche of Russian people. Through his own insights and the words of others, Frazier pulls no punches as he describes the soul-shattering despair of those who endured Russia’s ultimate punishment for charges ranging from the criminal and political to the completely capricious. Having experienced the almost incomprehensibly stark and unforgiving landscape spanning thousands of frozen miles in every direction, Frazier soberly recounts the cataclysmic mental and physical agony consuming those exiled to Siberia.

The author’s enchantment for his subject matter is so consistently enjoyable that all who indulge in the listening experience will be profoundly grateful for Ian Frazier’s love of Siberia while remaining relieved that they did not make the journeys themselves. —Carole Chouinard

Publisher's Summary

A Dazzling Russian travelogue from the best-selling author of Great Plains.

In Travels in Siberia, Ian Frazier trains his eye for unforgettable detail on Siberia, that vast expanse of Asiatic Russia. He explores many aspects of this storied, often grim region, which takes up one-seventh of the land on earth. He writes about the geography, the resources, the native peoples, the history, the 40-below midwinter afternoons, the bugs.

The book brims with Mongols, half-crazed Orthodox archpriests, fur seekers, ambassadors of the czar bound for Peking, tea caravans, German scientists, American prospectors, intrepid English nurses, and prisoners and exiles of every kind - from Natalie Lopukhin, banished by the czarina for copying her dresses; to the noble Decembrist revolutionaries of the 1820s; to the young men and women of the People’s Will movement whose fondest hope was to blow up the czar; to those who met still-ungraspable suffering and death in the Siberian camps during Soviet times.

More than just a historical travelogue, Travels in Siberia is also an account of Russia since the end of the Soviet Union and a personal reflection on the all-around amazingness of Russia, a country that still somehow manages to be funny.

Siberian travel books have been popular since the 13th century, when monks sent by the pope went east to find the Great Khan and wrote about their journeys. Travels in Siberia will take its place as the 21st century’s indispensable contribution to the genre.

©2010 Ian Frazier (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

What the Critics Say

"Ian Frazier caps his travels through Siberia's vastness by narrating his own account of them, another enormous undertaking. The author doesn't have the polish or range of a professional voice actor, but soon we appreciate how this somewhat pedestrian tone suits both the crude reality of Siberia and the deadpan humor that pervades his book. How could anyone doubt that this is the voice of the actual man who, as he admits, had a 'chronic fear of being run over while asleep in my tent' or who was annoyed that his tea tasted like the shaving cream someone had mixed in his cup?" (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (246 )
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3.9 (148 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Gillis Heller The Peak, SAR Hong Kong 10-12-16
    Gillis Heller The Peak, SAR Hong Kong 10-12-16 Member Since 2013

    gheller57

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    "Базарно язык (slang from the marketplace)"

    Thoroughly enjoyable, and educational, too. Frazier drops an interesting phrase or three that he picked up from his travels.

    I passed this book to a Russian friend and he found it well-researched.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    david ortega 09-03-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Enjoyed the story"

    It's not action packed but lots of interesting history and facts throughout the book. It would be the kind of book I would like to write (if I were a writer)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    John Rogers 07-12-16
    John Rogers 07-12-16

    The Plan

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    "Very interesting listen."

    Yes, I would recommend "Travels in Siberia." But not in one sitting. As the average person,
    when ever I thought of Siberia before reading this book. I thought of the "Siberia" that is vast and cold year-round. You'll find it is much different. Mr Frazier in a sometimes humorous way shows that Siberia has contributed in many ways to our culture that we have today in the west. He also talks of the ever changing geography and gives many historical examples of much of man kinds suffering that has happened in Siberia over the centuries.
    This book was a little slow or perhaps somewhat repetitive in places. However all in it was good entertainment.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-31-16
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 03-31-16 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "DECEMBRISTS HELL"

    Writing well enough to capture a reader’s interest is difficult. Ian Frazier’s “Travels in Siberia” wonderfully succeeds with a good read as well as a guide for the untraveled and those who are thinking of traveling to Russia. This is not the Russia seen from Sarah Palin’s back yard but the Russia of real people living in a hard and beautiful country.

    Russia, its people, its history, its complex and corrupt way of doing business in the 21st century are revealed in Frazier’s book. One realizes the importance of not judging less ye be judged but living life in Siberia is not for the weak. Seeing something from your back yard is nothing like traveling in a van across Siberia or retracing the steps of early Siberian travelers like George Kennan. Frazier has written a fascinating piece of history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dewese Petal, MS, United States 09-03-12
    Dewese Petal, MS, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2015
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    "I loved this book"
    Where does Travels in Siberia rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    ranks as one of the top 5 books i have listened to.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Travels in Siberia?

    I loved the discription of the tundra and the camping at night.


    Which character – as performed by Ian Frazier – was your favorite?

    I especially liked Sasha. I know there were a lot of Sashas but I think the one that drove and planned the trip was Sasha. I liked his personality and how he actually ended up more like a friend.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No I listened over a period of 2 weeks on my way to work and home.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel W 08-28-11
    Joel W 08-28-11 Listener Since 2006
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    "An fascinating journey, but..."

    Rarely should an author narrate his or her own book, and unfortunately, this is another example of why. Frazier's reading is like a elementary student carefully reading and slowly enunciating the larger words. His narration is almost always slow and halting, and then occasionally sped up so one sentence runs into another. The author or publisher should have invested in a proper narrator. As for content, the subject is fascinating and certainly the journey across Siberia must have been amazing, but unfortunately, this does not come across in this telling. The books gets lost in one aside to another, and one never gets a real feel for the amazing,people, cities, and countryside the author must certainly have encountered. A hollow, lackluster account. Indeed, except for the fact that Siberian cities have very many beautiful women, a fact the author likes to relate with every passing city, Siberia remains as vast and distant as it was before reading this book.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Ron Olympia, WA, United States 04-22-11
    Ron Olympia, WA, United States 04-22-11
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    "Worth a listen"

    While I enjoyed the book overall, there were a few areas I think could have been better. The book is way too long. The actual trip across Siberia didn't happen until about one-third of the way through the book. The first third being taken up by a not-always-too relevant or interesting recitation of the author's activities leading up to the trip. One thing that really annoyed me after a while was the author's tendency to drop in a large, obscure (often cumbersome) word when a simpler, more direct word would better fit the narrative -- again, my opinion. (I like to think my vocabulary is pretty good, but he used a few words -- yes, in English -- that I've never heard of! Humbling!) And last, the author has never met a prepositional phrase he didn't love. They abound. But all in all, the book is packed with interesting information, and the author's fascination with his subject shines through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    John S. Seattle, WA United States 03-20-11
    John S. Seattle, WA United States 03-20-11 Member Since 2016
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    "At first I wasn't sure"

    Frazier speaks v-e-r-y slowly; enunciation on steroids, which is unfortunate as the book doesn't exactly open with a bang. Still, once the travels actually get going, I found I enjoyed his dry humor better spoken than I likely would've in print (see also: Eric Weiner reading his "Geography of Bliss", though Weiner's hardly a "dry" writer). Some reviewers have said he whines a lot, but I didn't think so. I found his humor the best when things went wrong.Not saying I wouldn't have liked to see the author's sketches and photos, and I would've liked to skim the history sections at times; I did actually engage in some slight fast-forwarding in a couple of places, but by the end I felt this book was a great use of a credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Lavinia 07-12-12
    Lavinia 07-12-12
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    "Professional Needed"

    The author read the book and that was a downer. He was flat and basically boring. I didn't need to hear him practicing his Russian. He does translate the Russian but not the French - some of us took German or Spanish NOT French. A professional reader was needed.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
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    Niall Helsinki, Finland 11-19-10
    Niall Helsinki, Finland 11-19-10
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    "Middling"

    Just reaching the end of this book. I have to say it is a really mixed bag. The author's love of Russia/Siberia shines through and he deals with the history really well. Some of his descriptions are great too (e.g. the fishing sections),

    But he seems almost pathologically incapable of mixing with the people of Siberia, whether they be Russian or indigeonous. So many descriptions of him spending time alone at the camp site or in the hotel while his Russian guides go out and mix with the locals! The whole thing also features the author's inner thoughts so much you get exasperated with him. It's a long book. This makes it feel longer

    A good historian, but terrible travel writer.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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