In a nutshell… The sequel to Death and the Penguin is even wilder than the original, including politics, warzones and arm wrestling.
Strengths: Always inventive.
Weaknesses: Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Viktor would go that far for a penguin.
Why I read it: ebook
download from Net Galley
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Setting: Ukraine, Russia, Chechnya
Rating: 8 out of 10.
If you like this, try:
Death and the Penguin (assuming you haven’t read it), otherwise it’s hard to think of anything else this original.
I really enjoyed Death and the Penguin. It was original, amusing and outlandish, so naturally I wanted to read the sequel. Kurkov is never one to do things by halves and Penguin Lost opens to find Viktor a world away from Misha the penguin in Antarctica. (Yes, that’s right – man in Antarctica, penguin in Ukraine). Viktor is asked to give a credit card and letter to the wife of a somewhat shady Russian character dying in Antarctica, so back to the northern hemisphere he goes. Before he can get to Moscow, he is usurped by a wannabe politician as a PR aide after finding his girlfriend has a new lover. Moving to find Misha in Chechnya, Viktor operates a crematorium and later returns to Kiev, sans penguin. But when Misha does arrive back home, there are problems with old friends and lovers. In a moment of inspiration, Viktor creates an arm wrestling team to try to get Misha to Antarctica. What happens on the yacht there is now typical absurd calamity and once again, there’s an opening for the sequel.
What creates these outlandish situations for Viktor? Is it just the love for his penguin or ability to get into sticky situations? Nobody could predict the twists and turns in this book – Kurkov is a genius at making the absurd sound relatively believable (or it is just the Western belief that ‘anything’ could happen in the former Soviet bloc?). While Misha is missing for some of this book, his return gives the story a more human feel (Viktor seems a bit lonely traipsing the world alone) as well as giving the opportunity for a penguin to visit McDonalds. Sonya also makes a reappearance and is the voice of truth more often than not – giving an opinion into the crazy world she lives in.
Surreal in places, but never boring, this is dark but not oppressively so. It would be useful to read the first novel before trying this one though.