cover image Penguin Lost

Penguin Lost

Andrey Kurkov. trans. from the Russian by George Bird. Melville (Random, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-935554-56-1

In this supersonically-paced, but ultimately tedious sequel to Death and the Penguin, Viktor Zolotaryov searches for his beloved missing penguin Misha. At the behest of ailing Muscovite Bronikovsky, heartbroken Viktor leaves the Drake Passage and returns to Kiev, where, under an assumed identity, he becomes involved in a hodge-podge of shady dealings. Whether disguised as Bronikovsky, dealing with a Chechen warlord, or rigging elections for a corrupt politician, Victor constantly longs for Misha. However, his journey to find Misha becomes a burdensome trudge as Kurkov piles on muddled events and an unmanageable cast of characters. Despite its seemingly simple premise, the novel suffers from an uncoordinated plot and an awkward translation: "Viktor was struck by one full-face portrait showing scar and broken nose to maximum advantage, with the plus of an animal-at-bay expression much at variance with the smug Hollywood smile of the airbrush portrait." Readers should be prepared for confusion. (Sept.)