I was rather intrigued with this one from the moment I read the premise. Buy or Die is a dystopian novel that came with a bit of a 1984 essence. The novel has been translated from the original Russian, which may have caused it to lose a bit of its lyrical nature and smoothness of prose, but overall the writing is very stylish and highly descriptive. In all honesty, the small speedbump of some “lost in translation” issues may have been the only reason for my downgrade from 4 stars to 3 1/2.

Citizens Z and Y are the main protagonists of the book and they are both such well developed characters; their individual portraits extending well beyond what would be expected in a society which may not value individualism. The general feeling of the environment has quite the creep factor, with a mass of AI robots and advertising in the form of all senses that continuously assaults the public. I found the fact that you can pay to dampen the advertising particularly interesting, especially when you stop to consider that those with less money would be capable of purchasing fewer advertised items. The whole premise lends itself to so much exploration and the world created is definitely one I would love to read more of. There is so much packed in to this novel that is amazingly creative and original.

There were some inconsistencies in structure that led to a bit of confusion here and there, losing me for a few pages until I figured out my time, place, and character. There were also many questions that developed for me over the course of the novel (particularly the second half). This may be due to my intense interest in the subject matter and wanting to more deeply probe the imagination of the author, but it did cause me to have some distraction from the story.

Overall, Buy or Die is a great read that is well worth the time. In fact, I wouldn’t mind rereading it in the future. It would likely be an even better read in its original language, as it is clear that the author has some wonderful talent and the ability to string words together in a way that creates something somewhat magical. I look forward to keeping an eye out for more from Theodor Ventskevich in the future.

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