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Rachel-K
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First Impressions?

Please use this thread to post your early impressions of the characters and the story. What builds your expectations here in these opening pages?
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IBIS
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Re: First Impressions?

I'm fascinated by the variety of POVs in the opening chapters... whenever I start reading a book with a predominant first-person narration, I automatically go into my "Is the narrator being truthful; are my perceptions, as reader, deliberately skewed by the author's deliberate omissions?"

We see the murder of Child 44 through the various viewpoints of the neighbors, the parents, the witness who claims to have seen the murdered... everyone has a slightly different take on the event... So when Leo comes along and toes the "party-line" that there was no murder, that it was a train accident... it's a fascinating perspective for me, as reader, to see how this murder will relate to other murders ... both past and future ones.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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TRS_Old
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Re: First Impressions?



IBIS wrote:
I'm fascinated by the variety of POVs in the opening chapters... whenever I start reading a book with a predominant first-person narration, I automatically go into my "Is the narrator being truthful; are my perceptions, as reader, deliberately skewed by the author's deliberate omissions?"

We see the murder of Child 44 through the various viewpoints of the neighbors, the parents, the witness who claims to have seen the murdered... everyone has a slightly different take on the event... So when Leo comes along and toes the "party-line" that there was no murder, that it was a train accident... it's a fascinating perspective for me, as reader, to see how this murder will relate to other murders ... both past and future ones.

IBIS




I'm pleased you enjoyed the use of POV. It offered me so many different opportunities which wouldn't have been there if I'd anchored the book on one person's shoulders. And it was fun from my side of things to be able to show the gaps between the way people were seeing the same events.

Here was something I posted to a moderator's question:

Every line is written through a character's point of view. I was careful to avoid stating an "authorial truth". In the case of the first crime scene, we never see it directly, we only ever hear different characters talking about it and we only hear their words from another character's perspective. In that sense, the "truth" is being refracted through at least two different prisms. I guess I was trying to capture a sense of how the "truth" was such a flexible concept in a totalitarian state. It had nothing to do with the empirical evidence. It had everything to do with what the State demanded you think.

Of course in my mind I always knew exactly what the "truth" was (since I was creating it) but I didn't want to allow that confidence to seep into the text.


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IBIS
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Re: First Impressions?

The paranoia of the Soviet state in CHILD 44 made a very powerful first impression on me.

It's such a contradiction in terms... a perfect utopia created by ruthless means and deprivation... the basic belief that Soviet citizens live free from the fears of ordinary crime ... and yet the very government that guarantees these freedoms encourages its enforcers to resort to torture and emotional blackmail.

Our usual understanding of criminal behavior is that it violates society's rules... it breaks down society's order. Yet the State carries on its own criminal activities in a very organized way, with its own hierarchy and bureaucracy and rules... The very fear that the citizens are supposedly freed from is used to instill order and obedience.. and career policemen, like Leo and General Nesterov, become mere working stiffs ...

there is something ludicrous about the "police" who happen to commit murder for the State...
It's almost tragic about Vasili who desires to be a big time defender of the MGB but turns out to be nothing but a cog in the impersonal wheel of the State.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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TRS_Old
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Re: First Impressions?



IBIS wrote:
The paranoia of the Soviet state in CHILD 44 made a very powerful first impression on me.

It's such a contradiction in terms... a perfect utopia created by ruthless means and deprivation... the basic belief that Soviet citizens live free from the fears of ordinary crime ... and yet the very government that guarantees these freedoms encourages its enforcers to resort to torture and emotional blackmail.

Our usual understanding of criminal behavior is that it violates society's rules... it breaks down society's order. Yet the State carries on its own criminal activities in a very organized way, with its own hierarchy and bureaucracy and rules... The very fear that the citizens are supposedly freed from is used to instill order and obedience.. and career policemen, like Leo and General Nesterov, become mere working stiffs ...

there is something ludicrous about the "police" who happen to commit murder for the State...
It's almost tragic about Vasili who desires to be a big time defender of the MGB but turns out to be nothing but a cog in the impersonal wheel of the State.

IBIS




This is exactly why it's so interesting setting a crime narrative in this setting because the very definition of criminality has been turned upside down.

I always saw Vasili's tragedy is that he wants to fall in love but can't. He wants to feel passionately, as he observes Leo feeling passionately, but he can't. He's shut down inside and so instead of being able to love, he seeks to destroy. He wants to love the State but in fact he doesn't really care about politics.

He's drawn to Leo, slightly like a bug is drawn to light. Leo has energy. He has none. Leo has heart. He has none. The tragedy is that he seeks to destroy the very thing he desires.


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CathyB
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Re: First Impressions?

I finished the book last night!  It is beautifully written.
 
The detail that was provided was great - I felt like I was there.  I usually
read for a couple of hours a day.  When I find myself continuously thinking
about/replaying the book in my mind for the remainder of the day, I know
I am reading a good book - definitely the case here.
 
I loved the characters and the various relationships between them.  The different
POV worked well.
 
Can't wait for your next book!
 
CathyB
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IBIS
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Re: First Impressions?



Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:


I always saw Vasili's tragedy is that he wants to fall in love but can't. He wants to feel passionately, as he observes Leo feeling passionately, but he can't. He's shut down inside and so instead of being able to love, he seeks to destroy. He wants to love the State but in fact he doesn't really care about politics.

He's drawn to Leo, slightly like a bug is drawn to light. Leo has energy. He has none. Leo has heart. He has none. The tragedy is that he seeks to destroy the very thing he desires.




What a wonderful summation of Vasili's character... thank you for your insights...

I knew that he was driven by a desire to destroy Leo... at first I thought it was mere competitiveness, but when I got to the section where he finds out that Leo is not dead, that there still is a chance to capture him... he reacts with astonishing joy....

not joy that Leo is alive, but joy that his quarry is still out there, and the hunt to destroy him is not over...

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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TRS_Old
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Re: First Impressions?



IBIS wrote:


Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:


I always saw Vasili's tragedy is that he wants to fall in love but can't. He wants to feel passionately, as he observes Leo feeling passionately, but he can't. He's shut down inside and so instead of being able to love, he seeks to destroy. He wants to love the State but in fact he doesn't really care about politics.

He's drawn to Leo, slightly like a bug is drawn to light. Leo has energy. He has none. Leo has heart. He has none. The tragedy is that he seeks to destroy the very thing he desires.




What a wonderful summation of Vasili's character... thank you for your insights...

I knew that he was driven by a desire to destroy Leo... at first I thought it was mere competitiveness, but when I got to the section where he finds out that Leo is not dead, that there still is a chance to capture him... he reacts with astonishing joy....

not joy that Leo is alive, but joy that his quarry is still out there, and the hunt to destroy him is not over...

IBIS




He's overjoyed because he gets to try and destroy Leo again! It's a ridiculous contradiction that he can't unpick. What he wants is a Leo that he can crush over and over. That's why, even after Leo is exiled, he has to phone him, he has to be part of his life, he doesn't just let Leo go.

I think Raisa is the only character who comes close to understanding Vasili when she recognizes that there is something personal about this hatred, something intimate about it.


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NamelessHereForEvermore
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Re: First Impressions?

[ Edited ]
 I just started reading it last night. I love the opening scene with Maria and the cat simply because it made me wonder if I would kill my pets and eat them if we were starving. I don't think I could.
 
Another thing I really like is your style of writing. I like how the dialogue isn't in quotations and there isn't a he said she said constantly happening. At first I thought it was going to be very confusing to understand, but it really isn't and I actually like it better then quotation marks. Why did you decide to write it this way? Do you always write this way, or is this just a style you chose for the book?


Message Edited by NamelessHereForEvermore on 06-06-2008 09:20 PM
~NamelessHereForNevermore
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Re: First Impressions?



NamelessHereForEvermore wrote:
I just started reading it last night. I love the opening scene with Maria and the cat simply because it made me wonder if I would kill my pets and eat them if we were starving. I don't think I could.
Another thing I really like is your style of writing. I like how the dialogue isn't in quotations and there isn't a he said she said constantly happening. At first I thought it was going to be very confusing to understand, but it really isn't and I actually like it better then quotation marks. Why did you decide to write it this way? Do you always write this way, or is this just a style you chose for the book?


Message Edited by NamelessHereForEvermore on 06-06-2008 09:20 PM




I'm glad you're enjoying it so far.

I'm pleased that you brought up the issue of speech as italics, partly because it's proved more controversial than I expected. The first thing I'd say is that I never wanted or intended to alienate anyone by being slightly different. I spent over two years trying to make this book as enjoyable and exciting a read as possible. I wasn't trying to experimental for the sake of it.

My reasons for making the change were two fold. I wanted to dispense with all the He said, she said - it's hard to do that with regular speech. With italics you can see very clearly what is speech and what isn't. As a reader, visually you're ahead of the game, in a glance you can get a sense of the passage, and so as I writer I don't have to worry so much about whether it's clear that this is speech. I hoped it would increase the pace.

I guess I was also nervous about direct speech marks around English when obviously our characters are speaking Russian. It felt kind of peculiar.

Before the novel was published, several international publishers asked me about the italics. My response was always if they're worried it would put people off, they should change it. I wasn't going to kick up a fight about. I preferred them. I hoped that readers would quite like it, once they made the adjustment. If a publisher wasn't convinced by my case, they were changed. So, CHILD 44 in some languages does have speech marks.


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TRS_Old
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Re: First Impressions?



CathyB wrote:
I finished the book last night! It is beautifully written.
The detail that was provided was great - I felt like I was there. I usually
read for a couple of hours a day. When I find myself continuously thinking
about/replaying the book in my mind for the remainder of the day, I know
I am reading a good book - definitely the case here.
I loved the characters and the various relationships between them. The different
POV worked well.
Can't wait for your next book!
CathyB





CathyB,

I never replied to your post... apologies for the late reply!

I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book!

I'm about three weeks from finishing the second book - it should be out this time next year.


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CathyB
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Registered: ‎12-30-2006
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Re: First Impressions?

Tom_Rob_Smith:
 
  There is no need for an apology.  I am amazed that you have been able to respond
to every post - especially while trying to finish your latest book!  It is a privilege
to 'talk' with you - reading all of your posts.
 
CathyB
 


Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:

... I never replied to your post... apologies for the late reply!

I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book!

I'm about three weeks from finishing the second book - it should be out this time next year.


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evollbach
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Registered: ‎06-17-2008
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Re: First Impressions?



Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
I'm pleased that you brought up the issue of speech as italics, partly because it's proved more controversial than I expected. . . . My reasons for making the change were two fold. I wanted to dispense with all the He said, she said - it's hard to do that with regular speech. With italics you can see very clearly what is speech and what isn't. As a reader, visually you're ahead of the game, in a glance you can get a sense of the passage, and so as I writer I don't have to worry so much about whether it's clear that this is speech. I hoped it would increase the pace.

I guess I was also nervous about direct speech marks around English when obviously our characters are speaking Russian.




The impression I get from speech in italics is a sense of urgency, appropriate in this story, I'd say.
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TRS_Old
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Re: First Impressions?



evollbach wrote:


Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
I'm pleased that you brought up the issue of speech as italics, partly because it's proved more controversial than I expected. . . . My reasons for making the change were two fold. I wanted to dispense with all the He said, she said - it's hard to do that with regular speech. With italics you can see very clearly what is speech and what isn't. As a reader, visually you're ahead of the game, in a glance you can get a sense of the passage, and so as I writer I don't have to worry so much about whether it's clear that this is speech. I hoped it would increase the pace.

I guess I was also nervous about direct speech marks around English when obviously our characters are speaking Russian.




The impression I get from speech in italics is a sense of urgency, appropriate in this story, I'd say.




That's exactly what I was aiming for!


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