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Ice by Vladimir Sorokin
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Ice (2002)

by Vladimir Sorokin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ice Trilogy (1)

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The only reason I gave "Ice" two stars is that I finished the book... "Ice" chronicles the activity of certain blue-eyed, blond-haired people who search for others that look like themselves. When they find them, they bang on their chests with icy hammers. Some hammerees respond by speaking their “true” names through their hearts; they are rehabilitated. The rest, the “empties,” are left to die.

There are many layers to the book that I won’t detail, lest you, too, get sucked into this slippery mess and want to discover its core. Be ready: "Ice" may max out your capabilities for the willing suspension of disbelief.

Sorokin divides his book into several stylistically dissimilar sections that he links with the ice motif. The first part of "Ice" takes place in contemporary Russia, and the heart hammerers resemble a Russian criminal group. This part of the book is brutal, at least in the Russian original, with so much gratuitous and graphic violence, swearing, sex, and other ickiness that many readers may want to abandon the novel. (A friend did when I lent her the book.)

Why did I keep reading? For one, I wanted to finish the book to get a feel for why Sorokin has caused so much controversy. One lesson learned: Sorokin’s love for writing about bathroom-related topics made it obvious why Putin’s youth group Walking Together (Идущие вместе) used a toilet to collect Sorokin books during a protest.

Still, I have to, grudgingly, give Sorokin some credit: he has a decent sense of timing and knows how to manipulate the reader to finish a book. Just as the violence and abuse in Ice became too much, Sorokin shifted his narrative. By this point, it was too late for me to put the book down because my interest was piqued. Would the book get better? Were the hammerers an Aryan cult? What did the heart have to do with everything? Or anything? Would I send my copy of "Ice" to Moscow for flushing?

I finished and kept it. The book calmed down some but didn’t exactly improve, meaning that, unfortunately, the answers to the other questions are murky. In terms of meaning, "Ice" is as empty as the heartless victims of the hammer, and I won’t consult the other installments of Sorokin’s trilogy for further clarification. Once is enough, thanks.

There's more about "Ice" on my blog: "Vladimir Sorokin's 'Ice Capades'"
( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |


Finnish-Estonian production of Ice based of Vladimir Sorokin's novel performed at the Von Krahl Theatre in Helsinki

Riveting. Absolutely riveting.

And this riveting, spellbinding novel comes in two different flavors. You get to choose which one might suit your taste.

Flavor number one is to read Bro before Ice. Flavor number two is reading Ice without having read Bro. Permit me to elaborate.

Bro is Volume #1 of Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy. Bro is the first person account of how a young Russian by the name of Alexander Snegirey has his heart awakened by Primordial Light in 1928. As part of his awakening he is given the name of Bro and told he must find his Brothers and Sisters who have also been chosen to likewise have their hearts awakened. The novel takes readers on Bro’s breathtaking adventure up until 1950. Ice continues the thread of the story beginning in the year 2000. Thus Bro provides not only historic context for Ice but puts the reader in the know about those who come to have their hearts awakened.

I'm glad I read Bro prior to reading Ice since I generally like to follow a story chronologically. Added to this, I would make the world's worst detective - much better for me to know the basic facts of what's going on rather than being kept in the dark.

British critic Michael Froggatt disagrees. In his review for Strange Horizons Mr. Froggatt judges Ice the strongest novel in the trilogy and goes on to say how reading Bro lessens the mystery and suspense of Ice. He concludes by suggesting a reader who is interested in tackling Vladimir Sorokin's Ice Trilogy to begin with Ice and work outwards.

Either way, Ice possesses an intensity, a surging drive right from the first pages. The narrative voice is detached, hard-edge, objective, as if a journalist recording the nitty-gritty of combat in a war zone. We encounter drug dealers, drug addicts, prostitutes, bottom of the barrel ruck and their coarse, crude, brutal, blunt way of speaking and dealing with one another – a novel not for the squeamish.

Many of the men and women are given a special call-out. Two examples: “Ilona: 17 years old, tall, thin, with a lively laughing face, leather pants, platform shoes, a white top.” - “Borenboim: 44 years old, medium height, thinning blonde hair, an intelligent face, blue eyes, thin glasses in gold frames, a dark green three-piece suit."

There’s mystery afoot, a stroke of Vladimir Sorokin infusion of radical myth mixed in with cosmic science fiction: these denizens of Moscow’s concrete canyons wonder what the hell is going on with the ice and all those primitive looking ice hammers. And the shift in their feelings. The contrast between the scummy day-to- day lives of these people and what they eventually feel in their hearts is quite striking: hard-as-nails drug kingpin Borenboim talking about his tender heart; likewise Nikolaeva the prostitute - very funny in an odd, offbeat way.

Two glimmers of refinement in this dank, cesspool world: Boremboim has a collection of Borges stories in his briefcase and Mozart is playing softly at a rehabilitation center. In Moscow 2000 overflowing with hard rock and liquor, gadgets, computer games and Hollywood posters, to know at least somebody appreciates Borges and Mozart is most refreshing.

Part Two switches to an old lady’s first person account retracing her childhood in a poor Russian village under Nazi occupation and her joining others villagers herded off to Germany to work in a factory. But then something remarkable happens. She’s singled out since she has blonde hair and blue eyes. What follows thereafter ties her to a strange brotherhood. Her worldview is forever transformed – from 1950 right up until 2000, the grueling, gritty details of her earthbound, everyday routine take a distant second to her true identity and mission.

One of the most stimulation dimensions of Ice is the way in which the story raises a number of philosophical issues. How bound are member of a particular religious cult or sect by their beliefs? Jim Jones and the mass suicides/mass murders in Jonestown, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians going up in flames in their compound in Waco, Marshall Applewhite leading Heaven’s Gate members in mass suicide - we need only think of these events to know that sects and cults can be closely linked to violence and death.

And considering the frequent instances of torture, imprisonment and murder throughout history perpetuated in the name of religion, how far are the major religions removed from sects and cults? Any time members view others through the lens of “us versus them” watch out. Brutality and viciousness of one stripe or the other usually isn’t far behind.

What are we to make of the fellowship in Ice? Those initiates speak of opening the heart but how open is their heart to those outside their fellowship? Referring to “ordinary” humans as meat machines unworthy of life has a frightening ring. And this reference to libraries; "Thousands of meat machines were always sitting there, engaged in silent madness: they attentively leafed through sheets of paper covered with letters." Sounds like a rant spouted by a semi-illiterate thug.

Witnessing the horrors of twentieth century totalitarian governments is hardly less disturbing. And how about the omnipresence of contemporary multinational corporations? Perhaps Vladimir Sorokin in his sly way is commenting on the dangers of all forms of power and coercion reducing individuals to hungry consumers or meat machines.

Even if Ice is the only novel within the trilogy one reads, it is well worth it. For fans of the author, both old and new, nothing short of all three volumes will do.


Russian author Vladimir Sorokin

"Then I saw OUR PEOPLE again. Their hearts shone. And they swarm around me. There were more and more of them. I reached out to more and more new ones, to ones that were far, far away. And finally, I saw the hearts of ALL OUR PEOPLE on this gloomy planet." - Vladimir Sorokin, Ice ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Was will uns der Autor damit sagen? ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Was will uns der Autor damit sagen? ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Was will uns der Autor damit sagen? ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sorokin, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gambrell, JameyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"Moscow has been hit by a wave of brutal murders. The victims are of both sexes, from different backgrounds, and of all ages, but invariably blond and blue-eyed. They are found with their breastbones smashed in, their hearts crushed. There is no sign of any motive." "Drugs, sex, and violence are the currency of daily life in Moscow. Criminal gangs and unscrupulous financial operators run the show. But in the midst of so much squalor one mysterious group is pursuing a long-meditated plan. Blond and blue-eyed, with a strange shared attraction to a chunk of interstellar ice, they are looking for their brothers and sisters, precisely 23,000 of them. Lost among the common herd of humanity, they must be awakened and set free. How? With a crude hammer fashioned out of the cosmic ice. Humans, meat machines, die under its blows. The hearts of the chosen answer by uttering their true names. For the first time they know the ecstasy of true life." "For the awakened, the future, like the past, is simple. It is ice."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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