Thursday, 21 May 2009
URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Stranger - Max Frei
The millions-selling fantasy epic of the new Russian literary icon-a freeloading freebooter who finds a new home in a magical world
"You never know when you'll luck out."
Max Frei's novels have been a literary sensation in Russia since their debut in 1996, and have swept the fantasy world over. Presented here in English for the first time, The Stranger will strike a chord with readers of all stripes. Part fantasy, part horror, part philosophy, part dark comedy, the writing is united by a sharp wit and a web of clues that will open up the imagination of every reader.
Max Frei was a twenty-something loser-a big sleeper (that is, during the day; at night he can't sleep a wink), a hardened smoker, and an uncomplicated glutton and loafer. But then he got lucky. He contacts a parallel world in his dreams, where magic is a daily practice. Once a social outcast, he's now known in his new world as the "unequalled Sir Max." He's a member of the Department of Absolute Order, formed by a species of enchanted secret agents; his job is to solve cases more extravagant and unreal than one could imagine-a journey that will take Max down the winding paths of this strange and unhinged universe.
To be honest I found this to be a bit of a strange book, part Alice through the Looking Glass, part pulp noir yet add to the mix a healthy touch of the fantastical and you’ve got a novel that will take more than one reread to pick up on all the nuances within.
Part of the problem with certain texts is that the language doesn’t translate too well from its original, yet here, in this lovingly put together English edition the novel is really fascinating, the protagonist guiding the reader through this strange world by the hand as he tries to find his own place within. Its fun, its quirky and it clearly has a lot of world building added. Definitely an author to watch and with other books in the series to come (already released in Russia) I get the feeling that the underlying arc is going to present something spectacular by the series end.