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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts.

In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

©2015 Anthony Marra (P)2015 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Powerful...strikingly reimagines a nearly a century of changes in Russia. [T]he book's brilliance and humor are laced with the somber feeling that the country is allergic to evolution." (Kirkus Reviews)
"As in his acclaimed novel, Marra finds in Chechnya an inspiration for his uniquely funny, tragic, bizarre, and memorable fiction." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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I switched to print.

What did you like best about The Tsar of Love and Techno? What did you like least?

The narration, in my opinion, was not worthy of the story. I lost so much in that the voices didn't sound as intelligent as the words being spoken. I missed SO MUCH. I am very glad the library had it so I could go back and appreciate the entire text. And I am usually not one to complain about voices but this didn't work for me.

What other book might you compare The Tsar of Love and Techno to and why?

Maybe, the Imerfectionists by Tom Rachman - for linked stories.

Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

No.

Did The Tsar of Love and Techno inspire you to do anything?

I want to read everything Marra writes.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The Nutcracker's Cosmonautic March

I normally find it difficult to complete even half of a short story collection, except on the rare occasion the stories are intertwined by characters and events. I'll listen to 1 or 2 but eventually go back to the traditional Freytag's Pyramid, invest myself in a novel, and then forget about the collection of nice, but not compelling, stories.

In comparison, I quickly became absorbed by the lofty TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO because, for one thing, the first story is both chilling and compelling, and another, these stories make you want to discover the interlacing threads and watch the magic of the completed whole. That is to say, the reader learns through each story which characters are primary, and discovers that character has returned in a later story in some other context. The stories so complement the others that, aside from the 1st, 3d and 4th stories, I'm not sure the others would have nearly the impact they do had any one of them stood on its own outside the context of the collection.

I enjoyed the entire collection excepting the second story. Should you get annoyed by the shrew's narration, stick with the book; while irritating in itself, the second story adds pieces to the whole. In hindsight, the structure seems hard to have pulled off, but I couldn't tell at the time because of the seeming simplicity of each story (all of which were structured brilliantly).

These stirring stories center on an uncle and nephews, a pair of brothers, a couple, a mother (and daughter), a girl (and grandmother) and a painting, and occur variously at three locales of the former Soviet Union (Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Kirovsk [in Siberia to the east of China] and within Chechnya). The first story is set in 1937 during the Stalin purge [“In order to become the chisel that breaks the marble inside us, the artist must first become the hammer," said the Soviet censor of paintings and photos.] The remaining tales occur primarily between the mid-1990s and 2013. They hit on a wide array of subjects like censorship, Russian art, the breakup of the Soviet Union, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Russians in Chechnya, mine fields, the nuclear age and outer space, and art (in life and capturing life in art). IMAGES - mix tapes, leopard bikini bottoms, a ballerina, a painting of an empty Chechen field in the afternoon, a lone wolf in the woods for an execution.

This magnificent collection evoked reflection on how circumstances can change people so that basically good people have the capacity to do evil, but how, in all but the most aberrant among us, there's a reservoir of basic goodness in the face of evil. It also aroused my contemplation of the fleeting nature of life, what impression do we really and truly make on a planet we visit so shortly, how small each of us is in relation to time and space, and how Art, above most else, can transcend life.

Anthony Marra is a master at evoking sympathy for characters so foreign to a reader in the U.S., and in his ability to simultaneously create both sympathy and contempt for a character. Even in short stories, knots of complexity surround the six major characters, making them so human, their sentiments so real.

In my opinion, this book is even better than Mr. Marra's debut novel "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." I believe he has the potential to write a novel for the ages. No exaggerating.

On a side note, I think Marra made up for his debut's hard-to-recall title and its washed out cover with his new Hip title and even Hipper cover.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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I highly recommend, but read it, don't listen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

NO

What did you like best about this story?

Beautifully woven story of the pain, injustice and losses to everyday lives by the Stalinist system and its corrupted aftermath.

Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

NO

Who was the most memorable character of The Tsar of Love and Techno and why?

Roman, the first character we meet, who launches the story as he fights guilt and despair through his art.

Any additional comments?

This is an extraordinary work, so I found the reading to be very unfortunate -- heavily accented Russians were apparently recruited, producing flat, poorly expressed readings of many of the stories. I found myself making a deliberate effort to focus on the words while blocking out the readers' renditions. I would HIGHLY recommend this book, but only if read, not listened to. I feel I was cheated, and the author was, too.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful book ruined by execrable narration

Elegant prose and luminous, thought provoking stories marred by fake Russian accents that narrators struggle to sustain. I love Marra's writing so much that I would gladly pay for a different version of this book. Please release a new version with capable narrators!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Narration sucks; book awesome

The stories, the book is one of the best. But of the three narrators, only the first was good. I had a copy of the book to read on my own and I quit listening to the lousy narration. This book is such a treasure that I hope others will read it and not turn away based on the lousy narrators.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Terrific story, deplorable narration

This cycle of stories is engrossing. Together they give a remarkable portrait of Soviet and post-Soviet life. Unfortunately, the readers bring the story down with distractingly terrible delivery. It's one thing to have an accent, it's another to sound robotic and cartoonish. I had to switch to the printed book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant book; disappointing Audiobook

Only Mark Bramhall brings this dazzling human "novel" to its full potential. The other readers, who sound like native Russian speakers, are not up to the task.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant, Delightful & Moving Stories

There’s a certain point when human behavior is so absurd it just becomes compulsively funny.
That is part of what I found delightful about Anthony Marra’s ingenious collection of short stories. The other aspect I very much enjoyed, was the feeling of putting together a puzzle, with each story providing some of the missing pieces until it was finally complete.

The interlocked stories on The Tsar of Love and Techno, are cleverly structured, bizarre, almost surreal. They encompass decades of Soviet history, from the Cold War to the dissolution of the USSR right up to modern-day Putin’s Russia.

The geographical settings include Siberia and St. Petersburg, but its Chechnya and its capital, Grozny that are at the center of most of them.

Marra drops enough cultural and political landmarks to help the reader recognize the historical context, but I personally appreciated The Tsar of Love and Techno more for its ability to recreate the Russian pathos than for giving me history lessons.

I felt in love with Marra’s imagination, his disparate characters with their tongue-in-cheek banter and the vulnerabilities he gives even to those alpha-male soldiers living under the most deplorable conditions in war-ridden regions.

The Tsar of Love and Techno is a beautiful contemplation on the good/evil nature in all of us, the transcendent power of art and the horrific, perhaps irreversible consequences of polluting the environment on the only planet we have.

The multiple narration on this audiobook is top-notch. These narrators truly brought these stories to life!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The readers' accents on this books were totally distracting and arduous to listen to. After reading "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena," which I thought was amazing, I was very surprised by this book's mediocrity.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An astonishing work

I did not know what to expect from this book but I'm deeply grateful that I listened to it. Beautifully constructed, with characters so real that they frustrated you half the time (as people do), and with a finish so moving and wise that I had to listen to it again several times. I do like books of interlocking stories such as Elizabeth Strout's, as well as stories with international settings. But those are only incidental pleasures to a beautifully crafted work with so much to appreciate moment by moment.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacob R.
  • 02-21-17

Incredibly well-written stories

Incredibly well-written collection of interlinked stories giving an excellent view into typical yet tragic Russian lives in a variety of eras