- Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
- Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
- Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
- Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
- Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
Page count: 1542.
I will readily admit that one of the reasons I bought this book was the title and the giant penguin on the cover. I am not the least bit immune to the current penguin fad. My fascination with penguins started when I met Pengui in the tools section of Sears several years ago, but that's another story…
In addition to the penguin in the title and on the cover, I also found the description on the back cover (and the joke on a prefatory page) irresistable. It turned out to be a pleasant discovery.
Death and the Penguin is a satirical look at life in post-Soviet Ukraine. The main characters are Viktor, a writer whose only steady work is writing obituaries, and his pet penguin Misha, who Viktor recovered from the Kiev Zoo when they started giving away animals they could no longer afford to feed. I was afraid Misha would be caricatured, but Kurkov avoids that trap. Instead, he is brilliantly drawn as a foil to Viktor, playing the role of the silent Greek chorus. I grew very fond of the penguin indeed as the story unfolded.
The storytelling is dry, allowing for much expressive nuance, and an unshakeable pathetic quality beautifully imbues everything. The most seemingly ordinary events of everyday life take on a special poignancy, and it becomes impossible not to sympathize with Viktor as he makes sense of the many curve balls sent his way.