EM­PIRE V Slip­ping the Tongue

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 387 pages | Hard­cover/ ebook

Au­thor Vic­tor Pelevin

Pub­lisher Gol­lancz

Em­pire V ( sub­ti­tle: The Prince Of Ham­let) is a kind of vampire novel, but only de­bat­ably so. In fact, it’s de­bat­able if it’s even a novel, as much of it reads like a se­ries of so­cio- philo­soph­i­cal lec­tures; eru­dite, ironic, lu­cid and witty, but still lec­tures.

It starts with the first- per­son pro­tag­o­nist, a young Rus­sian man called Ro­man, be­ing lured astray by a stranger and vam­pirised, which in­volves him re­ceiv­ing an an­cient oral par­a­site called the Tongue. ( Trekkers may be re­minded of sym­biont aliens the Trill.) Ro­man is then taught about our world’s re­al­ity, where ev­ery­one is born a pod- per­son, a ro­bot of “civil­i­sa­tion”, with no Neo to free us from this Matrix.

There’s very lit­tle story as such, even when Ro­man is smit­ten by a fe­male trainee vampire. There are some ex­cel­lent comic vi­gnettes and fine im­ages, such as vam­pires de­cant­ing the mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences of their hu­man live­stock, and the con­cep­tual beauty of the re­vealed world will have some read­ers purring with plea­sure. But the book also reads as an ex­tended ha­rangue against “sheeple” writ­ten on one long note of mis­an­thropic smug­ness. For­tu­nately, the su­perb trans­la­tion means that it’s al­ways exquisitely writ­ten smug­ness. An­drew Os­mond

A film ver­sion is in the works, with the same di­rec­tor who adapted Pelevin’s 1999 book Gen­er­a­tion P at­tached.

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