Description from Goodreads:
The heroine of the novel has been forced into a seemingly inconceivable situation. Against her will, she must enter the Institute of Special Technologies. A slightest misstep or failure at school—and the students’ loved ones pay a price. Governed by fear and coercion, Sasha will learn the meaning of the phrase “In the beginning was the word …”
Oh, this was a wonderful read—slow and meticulous, with a tendency to make my brain quiver, but wonderful all the same. There is just so much atmosphere to it. It’s easy to follow why Sasha does what she does, even though it should defy all logic. She’s also a really relatable character, even in such an alien environment. There were some interesting side characters, who all played important roles and the story kept me on the edge of my seat.
I would have liked to know a bit more about the other students’ experiences, to see how they differed from Sasha’s. But I understand that it would have been difficult to do, since the POV was fairly consistently focused on Sasha and it would have felt awkward to suddenly shift.
Now, this isn’t a book where the answers are easily given to you. You have to do a little mental work to figure things out. As an example, after finishing the book I went straight to bed. (I’d stayed up to read it.) I crawled under the blankets thinking, ‘but I don’t really know exactly what happened. I understand the broad strokes of it, but was it a happy ending?’ I was a little distressed by this. But as I put it out of my conscious mind and attempted sleep, the subtler details rose to the surface and I realised, yes, I do know exactly what happened. But it took the mental sifting for me to grasp it. I love books that do that!
At times the narrative got a little clunky or staccato, but I think this was the result of the translation. (Not to suggest the narrator did anything but a great job. I think sometimes there just might not be a concise way to express in English the original Russian thought.) For the most part however, it read smoothly and was surprisingly well edited.
It’s my understanding that this book is quite famous in Russia and I can see why. I strongly suggest picking it up. It’s a great read. I know I’ll be on the lookout for more of Maryna & Serhiy Dyachenko’s works. It’s just a shame so few of them have been translated. If anyone has a petition going around begging for more, please send it my way so I can sign.