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55. A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

I first became aware of Lavie at last year's Nine Worlds and at read The Violent Century this year, which was OK but didn't do a lot for me.

At this year's Nine Worlds he was on the "How to Idea" panel and spoke about the genesis of this novel, set in an alternative 20th century where the Nazis were expelled from Germany in 1933 in a Communist takeover and Hitler ends up just about making a living as a private eye in London.  Needless to say, I had to visit the Forbidden Planet stall immediately after the session to buy the book.

I was not disappointed.  It's grim and violent and deeply, darkly funny.  Even though it's excellent it should have been difficult going, but it really wasn't - I read it in 4 days.  There is a real mystery (or 3) which are straight out of Raymond Chandler.  Oswald Mosley figures prominently.

But because Lavie is Israeli and the direct descendant of Holocaust survivors, it's not just an alternate world, it's a world dreamed up by Shermer, a prisoner in Auschwitz who was a pulp novelist before the war.  And it's also about how the English feel about refugees and immigrants today.

This is the blackest black humour I've ever read, and it's very good indeed.
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53. The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie was on a panel I attended at Nine Worlds. He is an Israeli writer who lives in London and writes in English. I added him to my "to read" list in an effort to read more books by non-European people. This is the first one I was able to randomly pick up from the library.

This is a story of a parallel 20th century in which there are superheroes following some sort of scientific experiment by a German scientist in the 1930s. They are involved in their countries' efforts through WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, etc but (I don't think this is too much of a spoiler) don't affect the material outcomes.

I had trouble getting into it because the style was a bit odd - it is more literary than I was expecting, which is not a bad thing, it just required more effort than I'd anticipated. However, it soon picked up and I quite enjoyed it. I felt slightly uncomfortable about reading the passages about the Holocaust knowing they were written by an Israeli. You don't really warm to the characters (except one, near the end), but I think that that is the point.

As alternate histories go, it was a really interesting take on the 20th century, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of his books.

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