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Word has for most people in the West in the context of Russian history is the Gulag Achipelago That seems like an extremely strange naming choice here and I can t make any sense of it Also if the Novozhd is Stalin then who or what is Josef Kantor Actually Kantor is a better fit for Stalin but the Novozhd kind of also feels like Stalin It s as if one side of Stalin is putsching against another side of him Etc There are a bunch of uestions like that and a lot of things that I can t even ask uestions about but feel are probably meaningful in some way I can t properly understand So overall I m left somewhat confused and a little bit uneasy Last and probably the best book in the Wolfhound Century trilogy set in a fantasy world based on Soviet Russia Radiant State has a momentum from the very start that I think helps propel it past the sometimes frustrating ambiguities and unexplained mysteries of the previous two books The only thing that hurts it is a fairly abrupt ending Certainly my favorite fantasy discovery of 2016 Okay so I thought it was a bit long and maybe didn t need to be three books I m not a fan of a lot of reversals and suspense just to dilate a plot when really maybe ou could have had just one or two books And some of the villains were a little cardboard and almost all of the female characters were thin The ending was slightly off balance just a bit anti climactic And finally I was a confused as to where the forest was after Maroussia s sacrifice I thought it was in another dimension but it just seemed to be well in the forest It had seemed to me that Kantor should not be able to find the archangel at all So the whole Pollandore thread seemed undermined and pointless after all Still the recovery of the mystical nature oriented side of the Russian character is so welcome I really enjoyed the ride This book struck me as the odd one out in its trilogy Where the second followed directly on the first this one skips six Henry and June years ahead It tones down the violence somewhat which I consider an improvement along with the thriller elements in general That leaves room for the forest definitely my favorite part of the book and the series and for the lyricdescriptive side of the writing style The correspondence of the fictional world with ours gets closer with Osip Rizhin as an undisguised super Stalin There is some kind of cold war going on in the distance with the Archipelago butou don t hear much about it and I think Dry Skull Dreams you re supposed to assume it s not very relevant Even though there might not be a space race there is a space program Rizhin has developed it in fiveears out of sheer megalomania Meanwhile Vissarion Lom is looking for a way to bring down Rizhinism on Maroussia Shaumian s instructions Maroussia herself is not with him which I think makes both of them interesting and has been transformed into something like a goddess And the evil Archangel is still trapped in the forest The main complaint I have is that the pacing seemed jerky with the plot changing direction than in the first two books put together and closure coming very fast when it comes I have the feeling this last volume would have worked out best if it had been expanded into two or three A great ending to a highly imaginative series "Never uite sitting in one genre its a mix of fantasyscifi "uite sitting in one genre its a mix of fantasyscifi political thriller moving from angels and magic to space travel and science with a dose of communist dictatorship and secret police somehow finding a balance of all this and delivering a very good story full of strong characters c2015 FWFTB Vlast President Pollandore forest time The edition that I read was the paperback but the cover that GR has only seems to have as a Kindle edition All a bit odd So the book After the second book in the series I thought I was getting somewhere but this last book put the kaibosh on that Most of the time I had no idea of the plot other than the President was bound to get his come uppance somewhere along the line I still don t have a clue where the angel flesh comes into it but it was rather a good idea if insanely grim to have it powering a rocket Somehow I felt that there were a few gaps For example I never definitively knew whether or not the astronauts knew they were not coming back If they did then their behaviour is just not credible if they didn t well they just disappeared from the plot So why were they ever mentioned in the first place I m going to have to read the book again I must have missed something somewhere along the line However the writing remains brilliant so there is no option but to continue reading the book no matter how bizarre or misfitting the plot is Recommended to those members of the crew that have read the first 2 I don t think that this could be read as a stand alone The block where she lives is harsh and shabby a cliff of blinding colourlessness under harsh blue sky in the middle of a blank suare laid out with dimpled concrete sheet that are already cracked and slumped and prinked with grass tufts and dusty dandelions SCRAPS OF TORN PAPER LIFT AND of torn paper lift and in the warm breeze I really really enjoyed this series but the ending of this book was so vague and abrupt I m not totally sure if it was the last one or not I think there can hardly be a original fantasy book than this with some of the most exuisitely beautiful and poetic prosebut the ending left me not really knowing if it had ended Is there another book I found myself wondering To my mind an odd and unsatisfying end to virtually every single one of the characters storylines both protagonist and supporting cast This has rather diminished my view on the entire series unfortunately. Eached the end of their story and in Mirgorod a woman in a shabby dress carefully unwraps a sniper rifle And all the while the Pollandore dreams its own dreams. Successes and failures are visible in the country they left behind like a sculptor s thumbprint in the clay So how can it be Russia Oddly enough this third volume presents the clearest idea how Higgins allegory works The great scandal at the novel s heart is the amazing joke about the relationship of the insurrectionist terrorist to the patriarchal dictator No spoilers but as a statement about the dynamic of totalitarianism and the utopian dreams that inspire it Higgins exploration of KantorRizhin offers searing insights And these insights would be impossible if what Higgins wrote about was a Russia with all the familiar historical furniture Instead his allegorical Russia actually does help us better understand the real onePlainly I love Radiant State However it does suffer a serious misstep all the agonizing because of how central it is to the story The treatment of its central problem that of Papa Rizhin s rule is too straightforward A beautifully set up seuence involving a holiday at a seaside dacha seems suandered by the too easy solutions to several problems That issue persists as the story shifts back to the Vlast s capital of Mirgorod Having gone to the trouble of establishing the dispiriting and horrifying environment of a totalitarian state sometimes in scenes with breathtaking realism Higgins needs to present a climactic conflict eual to the world he has created And in that he fails Perhaps there are limits to his talent in these pages toward the end I found myself wishing for a writer interested in and adept at presenting the play by play suspense of authoritarian political intrigue like the Hilary Mantel of A Place of Greater SafetyThis problem is made worse by a reliance in the pivotal moments on psychic warfare of a type that would not be out of place in an X Men comic in which the mutants are dispatching a villain like Mister Sinister or Apocalypse This kind of storytelling is fine in itself but considered in the context of the soaring heights much of the foregoing novel has reached it s a bit jarring And in the context of a deeply subtle and insightful examination of totalitarianism and its place in human society it actually seems somewhat cheap But all this means merely that though Radiant State is not a perfect novel it is still a great one And even the absence of a definitive ending is welcome For Peter Higgins three Vlast books thus far put together do not have the heft of a single Joe Abercrombie tome Higgins has certainly not exhausted my interest in this place and people I for one possess near limitless curiosity about how this world came to be what it is and would love preuels delving deep into the various histories here only hinted at the Archipelago the Lazarye the Reasonable Empire I want So long as it s this good thousands of pages even The conclusion to a good and fascinating trilogyI rate this book lower than the previous one because it lacks some of the fantasy elements of the previous two books that created such a great atmosphereThe action takes place 6 ears after the end of the "Previous Book In A Much Modern Vlast "book in a much modern Vlast ruled with an iron fist by General Ozyn The terrorist John Cantor from the first book The Vlast is modernizing at a rapid space and Giants and other fantastic creatures have disappeared from the cities and they are in my view sorely missedStill a very good if a little short ending Reaction to the whole series not just the last "volumeIt s refreshing to see fantasy based on a different mythology and "s refreshing to see fantasy based on a different mythology and of history than the still too pervasive Westernmedieval and this is a very well executed example The Russian inspired worldbuilding isn t just window dressing it feels essential The mountainous fallen angels buried in the landscape are a very original and striking image as well Generally speaking there s a lot of beautiful imagery and great atmosphere in these books Some glorious poetic language too though some of it may be a bit too closely inspired by the words of Russian writers as Nina Allan suggests here The parts of the book where the inexplicable intrudes into reality are invariably the most beautiful Some stylistic mannerisms annoyed me a bit occasionally mostly in the crimespypolitical thriller bits where the language went a bit faux hard boiled which didn t work well with the general tone of the bookThe way that this series is based on Soviet Russia though makes me slightly uncomfortable and leaves me asking myself uestions like is this cultural appropriation And especially what about fantasy that deals with real historical mass death is that a thing that s ok to do in general and in this particular case I feel similarly uncomfortable about many genre treatments of the Holocaust And for that matter about many non genre treatments of it too especially from people of later generations I don t think I m ready to declare historical atrocity and genocide off limits for genre fiction but I do think that anyone who makes use of these things in their fiction needs to work extra hard to say something significant about it Which to be fair this series kind of does or at least tries to doI think the problem for me here is that this series really feels like it was written for people with a much detailed knowledge of Russian history than I have I feel like there s a game being played here that I can t grasp without the necessary background knowledge and I can t even understand the purpose of that game without that knowledge I know just enough to be confused Why for example is the name of the WesternCapitalist bloc analogue in the world of these books the Archipelago when probably the closest association that. Mander of the New Vlast General Osip Rizhin beyond the bounds of this world But not everyone shares this vision Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian have not ,


Radiant StateReading this third installment of Peter Higgins Vlast trilogy I honestly face a problem of depleted superlatives First things first a novel is an artifact made of words And the words here are achingly beautiful superbly chosen expertly deployed Especially in the novel s first uarter or so as we are being reintroduced to the characters and the plot is not et in full gear Higgins displays a virtuosity in his language that I have not read in any other fantasy novel that is not a claim I make lightly There are sentences The Gate of Heaven you will want to read aloud to actually hear how they sound There are sentencesou will need to share with friends There are sentences that will shock Tutoring Lady Jane you with their beauty so muchou will lose the thread of the narrative and so find that in the oddest way they fail because ou find ourself delectating upon them like poetry rather than reading them for how they service a story The path down to the lake "passes between the sea green rye and scented hummocks of dried manure In the bottom land the sorrel bloom is "between the sea green rye and scented hummocks of dried manure In the bottom land the sorrel bloom is the crop coming on heavy and dark Thick green heavy vegetable blood Yeva comes out onto the American Poetry yellow grass of the lake marginWhen mere nature is described this sumptuously the supernatural takes on an added luminescence From the end of the same paragraphThere is a sunken city under the mirror calm lake An underwater world In the village they keep water from the lake in their houses in bottles and basins and in the winter people go sliding face down on their bellies across the frozen surface staring down trying to see what is there The soul of the people is forever striving to behold the sunken city of LitvozhWhen such overwhelming craft is brought to bear in a fantasy narrative the effect is electric We do not take the supernatural elements for granted Instead we see hear and smell them along with Higgins characters keenly agonizingly painfully rather than taking them for granted Higgins triumph is that he has written a fantasy novel whereou feel the unreality of the things he describes the wrongness of them against the register of our perceived experience and thus shocks us back to an awareness of the violation of the laws that govern our understanding This is our third encounter with the Vlast Higgins remarkable allegory of Russia Whereas Wolfhound Century explored the psychology of the revolutionary moment and Truth and Fear portrayed the revolution s moment of extreme challenge in the face of foreign aggression corresponding to the Nazi invasion of 1941 Radiant State drops us into the moment external challenges have been overcome and the revolutionary state looks forward either with giddy delusion or profound horror to the limitless exercise of power by its rulers on its people indefinitely into the futureHiggins imbues this moment of Stalinist omnipotence with science fiction elements that while not entirely new to his project give Radiant State a flavor decidedly different from what came before In doing so he draws deeply on Russian traditions of cosmism and transhumanism that in actual history coexisted uneasily with early Bolshevik socialism Higgins alludes to this in chapter front notes but in truth the themes are so deeply woven into his actual story these overt references to actual Russian history seem unnecessaryThe situation with which the story opens is thus one in which our Stalin avatar es Osip RizhinJosef Kantor is complicated than that as a character but not for these purposes has decided to pursue a breakneck space program using his newly developed nuclear arsenal and technologies identified in our world with the United States Project Orion The human and environmental costs of such a project receive extensive and deeply terrifying treatment exciting some of Higgins most unsettingly Lovecraftian momentsFor of course this program occurs both for the purpose of Rizhin s mad project of self deification and in the context of Rizhin s war against the wilderness that Higgins lovingly describes as The Forest which we are Told Several Is several is of the world and larger than the world Here the Forest is the repository of magic and a beauty that is than human in every possible wayIt expresses the magnitude of Higgins talent that at the same time he presents a parable of nature and progress on this immense palate sometimes apparently setting science fiction itself at war with fantasy we get some of the most arresting human characters and stories I have ever seen in a fantasy novel By this point Higgins central figures Kantor Vissarion and Maroussia are well established and known uantities and if anything they are a bit underdeveloped when read here in isolation from their earlier storiesBut the novel s secondary cast particularly as concerning a mother who has been separated from her daughters by war and the woman who has kept them safe and cared for them manages to be deeply affecting without being mawkish Several scenes involving them in fact brought me to tears Similarly Higgins accounts of those characters enmeshed in the state from which his heroes flee and which they fight are powerful stuff And a darkly comic subplot involving a colony of clueless dissident intellectuals has much to say not just about totalitarianism but human self deception One of the open uestions I have had reading Higgins trilogy has been about the project itself as allegory What Higgins writes about no matter the place s name is Russia But this is a Russia without the Greek Orthodox Church without tsarist autocracy and the imperial family synonymous with it without the specific personalities Peter and Catherine and Tolstoy and Lenin whose. The Vlast stands two hundred feet tall four thousand tons of steel ready to be flung upwards on the fire of atom bombs Ready to take the dream of President Com.