Picking up everything I can get my hands on from Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, I feel like one of those snotty fans of obscure niche bands who pride themselves on being a fan before the band was "discovered." The Dyachenkos are big names in Russian SF&F, but thus far have only three works translated into English: Vita Nostra
, The Scar
, and the short story/novelette The Burned Tower
.The Burned Tower
was originally written in 1998, but has recently been translated and published by Tor. (You can download it for free
: go get it
The tone, and even aspects of the story, reminded me a great deal of Vita Nostra
. An innocent young man named Guy, working as a truck driver transporting beavers (!) has an unfortunate encounter on the road, resulting in him having to take on board a sinister hitchhiker. This hitchhiker seems to be a classic Trickster figure, but it soon becomes evident there is another theme in this story, of punishment and forgiveness, as Guy is brought to a place where once a terrible crime took place.
The story straddles the line between dark fantasy and horror. As with the full-length novels I've read by the Dyachenkos, there seems to be a lot going on beneath the surface and it's not always fully explained. They like teasing the reader with the dark undercurrents of a psychological thriller and mixing in a fantasy element. The whole thing is quite a mind trip.
Because of its length, I was a bit unsatisfied; it felt like perhaps an early draft of Vita Nostra
, with ideas developed more fully in that book. But it's still a moody piece of dark fantasy unlike anything you are likely to find Western writers writing today.
If you found my reviews of The Scar
or Vita Nostra
intriguing, go download this 50-page freebie and see if you like it. If you enjoy it at all, I guarantee the Dyanchenkos' two (translated into English) novels are much better. I am hoping to see more of their extensive body of Russian-language fantasy translated into English, so I can say "I was a fan before they became big in the U.S...."