“I know that everything I remember is a lie.”
– Rasputin's Bastards by David Nickle
While there were certainly surface similarities to Eutopia – both novels were rooted in history and both storylines lead the reader down a decidedly dark and surreal path – Rasputin's Bastards is an utterly unique novel; I’ve never read anything quite like it before.
It’s a mind-blowing blend of science fiction, political thriller, and understated horror.
It all began in an underground compound somewhere in Russia known as City 512 where the perfect spies were being created: dreamwalkers who could manipulate a virtual army of sleeper agents and theoretically go anywhere and know everything in the world. Each generation was more powerful than the last – but then the Cold War ended.
But now someone is calling these Children, these descendants of the Holy Man Grigor Rasputin – “who dreamed and saw the world through God’s eye” – and they are finally ready to break free from their masters’ chains. It is to be the Rapture for these “beautiful dreamers” and their thralls – the beginning of a new world. But is this call “real” or yet another metaphor in which to trap them?
I loved the concept of these metaphors – essentially magnificently constructed dream prisons where people are put while others are using their bodies. It is in these sequences that Nickle’s richly descriptive writing style shines:
“Darya Orlovsky spun and reeled in the perfect winter’s light, long braids of dark hair trailing over her shoulders like lariats. Her eyes were fixed on a place in her dreams: the city of New Pokrovskoye, the greatest port in the Empire. Snow fell like flakes of gold in a winter afternoon. Godly white horses that pranced in front of a sledge bearing lovers snuggled in thick grey furs…”
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.
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