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Homo Zapiens Paperback – 2002

4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: New York, New York, U.S.A.: Viking Press; 1st Edition edition (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001813
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 91 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #88,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Once upon a time in Russia there really was a carefree, youthful generation that smiled in joy at the summer, the sea and the sun, and chose Pepsi. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on Feb. 15 2002
Format: Hardcover
This novel (it's Russian title is "Generation "P" where "P" stays for Pepsi) became a cult book in Russia not only among intellectuals. It excellently depicts the general atmosphere of confusion, unreality and at the same time ironic sarcasm that was so typical for Russians in the middle of 90's. The transformation of Russia from despotic 'socialism' to anarchic 'capitalism' can be compared to culture shock known to anyone who lived in a foreign country long enough. First, you are euphoric about that new country, its people and customs, then a month later you start to hate it, then comes the time of confusion and after a year or so you learn how to live with it.
The protagonist of the novel Tatarsky acts a typical young Moscovite using every opportunity to find some firm ground in the confusing world of free economy. He becomes a successful copywriter who compensates his total lack of knowledge in advertising by artful citations from Trout's book "Positioning: a battle for your mind" and inventive 'localization' of American commercials. Some time later he moves into the sphere of high politics only to discover that all Russian politicians are nothing but virtual digital images run on TV by his own scripts under strict supervision by American government. Who's behind this conspiracy? Who runs the show? Why people believe it all? No spoilers here but the final answer is both unexpected and "Buddhistic" as all of Pelevin's novels and stories.
It would be a mistake to think that this novel is about confusion in post-perestroka Russia. Pelevin satire aims mostly at American values and way of life and mind manipulation brought by mass media, advertising and globalization.
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Format: Paperback
It's too bad this book can't be reviewed by Edward Bernays or Vladimir Lenin or better yet Bernays and Lenin working as a team. After all, both men were really into mass propaganda and slogans. All power to the Soviets! Light the torches of freedom!

At any rate, I'll give my impressions of "Homo Zapiens".

Victor Pelevin, one of Russia's best known post-Soviet writers, has painted a bizarre picture of Russia in the 1990s. No more central planning, no more dingy consumer goods, no more drab retail landscape. Almost overnight Russians were wrenched from the dreary but predictable Soviet reality into a strange new landscape where Communist slogans meant nothing and consumer slogans meant everything! It didn't matter anymore if you wrote poetry or read Dostoyevsky, what mattered now was what kind of car you drove and what kind of cigarettes you smoked. Let's all stand and welcome our Russian friends to the shallow world of the Eternal Present - now go forth and consume!

Babylen Tatarsky just can't get no satisfaction. Like most people who lived in the erstwhile Soviet Union Tartasky found himself unprepared for the collapse of the USSR and the result is a mad scramble to adjust to a consumer culture which we in the West have conformed to thanks to decades of corporate propaganda and our resulting childlike fascination with shiny trinkets.

"Homo Zapiens" is a very good book but Pelevin started to go off the deep end towards the end of the story and I felt like I was reading a Russian version of Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club" minus the space monkeys but with the addition of magic mushrooms, digitized politicians and Che Guevara's ghost. Victor Pelevin also reminds me of Philip K. Dick.
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Format: Hardcover
I am writing this mainly in defence of the translator. I totally disagree with a previous review that blamed Andrew Bromfield for spoiling the book with his "dull, dispassionate British English". Being a native Russian speaker, I have read this novel both in Russian and now in English. I attest that Bromfield does a fabulous job of conveying the message in a crisp and lucid way. The translation is not perfect in that it does not render all subtle allusions, of which are many, equally well, but let's be fair and don't ask for the impossible. As for the qualities of the novel itself, it's not as balanced as Buddha's Little Finger (aka Clay Machine-Gun) but it has quite a few masterfully done images of the post-Soviet reality. And the wow-impulse idea is just brilliant. My advice to a Western reader: do not be tricked by the capricious plot and weird characters; yet do not look for a deeper meaning and hidden references in every sentence. The bitter absurdity of today's Russia is a stage from which Pelevin makes some major statements, which are put forth forcefully and bluntly.
PS: this book is sometimes sold as Babylon.
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Format: Hardcover
To call this book bizarre would be a phenomenal understatement. Quirky, surreal, and at times so unintelligible that you wonder whether something got lost in the translation, this is not a book that I would recommend highly unless you know Pelevin's work and have enjoyed his particular brand of humor in the past. He certainly possesses a very unique outlook on Russian modern-day culture, and he is unapologetic in his ruthless assault on mass media, political institutions, and other elements of society. But his humor and his cultural reference points are perhaps too esoteric for the average American reader.
In Homo Zapiens, the main character, Tatarsky, stumbles into a career writing ad campaigns for various consumer products, ranging from Sprite to Parliament cigarettes. His new job brings him in contact with a range of zany characters, and ultimately leads him to some disturbing discoveries - such as the revelation that political leaders do not actually exist, but rather are simply digital images created by media companies for public consumption through the air waves. Homo Zapiens is filled with similar social commentaries that add definition to Pelevin's slightly disturbing world view. It is a refreshing, and at times humorous, insight into the Russian mentality, but ultimately not a particularly enjoyable or important piece of writing.
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