Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Volk's Game -- Brent Ghelfi

Volk is short for Volkovoy, and it means wolf. Alexei Volkovoy is a wolf, all right, wounded both physically and spiritually by his experiences as a sniper in Chechnya. Now he's working the black market in Moscow, selling drugs, supplying sex partners for parties, making porn films, and so on. At the same time he's working undercover for the Russian military and making side deals with the Russian mafia. Volk is a busy guy, and he's the "hero" of the novel. I think we're supposed to admire him because when he sends out sex partners, he orders that none of them be under fourteen, and he has the same rules for his porn operation. He knows, however, that nobody pays much attention to the rule.

His psycho sidekick is Valya, a beautiful woman, small but even more deadly than Volk, who watches his back and works with him in his various criminal enterprises, the latest of which is to steal a long-lost Da Vinci painting from the Hermitage museum. The caper doesn't go off without a hitch, to put it mildly, and before long there are so many double, triple, and quadruple crosses that it's hard to keep up. There's also violence. A lot of it. I can't remember a recent book in which so much blood, bones, and brains are splattered on walls. And lately I've run across the term torture porn here and there. Volk's Game will test your limits on torture, believe me, since about 50% of the violence is torture, much of it administered either by Volk or to him.

To me, the setting was the best thing about the book. Moscow and its environs are a lot like China Mieville's unLondon, a broken place but fascinating just the same.

If you can take the extreme violence, you'll find a fast-moving plot, some good writing (warning: it's present tense; I know some of you don't like that), and an interesting setting. You won't find any characters you like, or at least I didn't. There's probably going to be a lot of talk about this book. If you want to get in on the deal, check it out.


Anonymous said...

I finished reading this a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it. I wrote Ghelfi to tell him he did a good job and he replied saying the second Volk novel is due to publish next summer.

Unknown said...

I'm sure I'll read it if I can gear myself up for the violence. Bound to be plenty.

Anonymous said...

Volk's Shadow just released. I got it in the mail today. You must quite a few ARCs though.

Unknown said...

Nope. Believe it or not, I have to buy most of the stuff I read.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Not multiple copies of Volk's Shadow, just thinking out loud - in print.