9. A book written in Russia: The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin
List Progress: 24/30
As the author of a road trip novel myself, I have a fondness for stories that are all about the journey from Point A to Point B. In the 2015 novel The Blizzard, the trip through the eponymous storm is the entire plot, taking place over several days. The setting is very charming, an interesting mix of magical realism with splashes of sci-fi throughout. But some of the aspects of the plot and characters are so ridiculously dour as to feel almost stereotypically Russian: bleakness for bleakness’ sake.
A doctor has to deliver a vaccine to a village suffering from a zombie plague, so he hires a sled-driver with a flock of 50 tiny horses to pull them through the blizzard. The driver, Crouper, is quickly convinced of the importance of their journey, and does his best to overcome the magical and mundane obstacles they face along the way, while also being realistic about when they need to hunker down and wait out parts of the storm. But while Garin, the doctor, speaks highly about how fast they need to go, he is also very easily distracted, be it by the opportunity for sex, drugs, sleep or comfort. It can be more than a little frustrating when he is urging hurry, hurry, hurry when Crouper is trying to properly repair a sled runner, but will sleep hours past his alarm at a waypoint. Also, Crouper is very sweet and caring towards his chicken-sized horses, while Garin tries to whip them, so it is very clear who the audience’s sympathy is going to stay with. This is sometimes an interesting dynamic, but as the majority of the book is spent with just these two, it would have been great if Garin was a bit more reasonable.
Without going into too many spoilers, the ending feels more than a little abrupt, though it does follow logically from what has come before it. And despite the zombies being the most marketed aspect of the story on the cover materials, there is nary a shambling corpse to be seen. I enjoyed a lot of the journey, but I feel like the destination could have used some fine-tuning. But The Blizzard is a quick-moving and short read, so it is not a burden to read it for the charm of the world building. Sorokin appears to be a prolific author, so I might explore some of his other work in the future, but presumably with something fluffy as a chaser.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, with some reservations.