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Us Conductors
by Sean Michaels


Overview - Locked in a cabin aboard a ship bearing him back to Russia and away from the love of his life, Lev Sergeyvich Termen begins to type his story: a tale of electricity, romance and the invention of the world's strangest instrument, the theremin. He recollects his early years as a scientist forging breakthroughs during the Bolshevik Revolution and his decade as a Manhattan celebrity and reluctant Soviet spy.  Read more...

 
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Overview
Locked in a cabin aboard a ship bearing him back to Russia and away from the love of his life, Lev Sergeyvich Termen begins to type his story: a tale of electricity, romance and the invention of the world's strangest instrument, the theremin. He recollects his early years as a scientist forging breakthroughs during the Bolshevik Revolution and his decade as a Manhattan celebrity and reluctant Soviet spy. Against the backdrop of Prohibition and the 1929 Crash, Termen spends his days in his workshop, devising inventions, and his nights in Harlem clubs, jostling with famous bandleaders and falling in love with the young violinist Clara Reisenberg. When the boat reaches his homeland, Termen finds it is not the Russia he remembers. He is imprisoned in the Gulag system, sent first to a Siberian work camp and then to a secret laboratory. In the face of all this, his love for Clara remains constant, passing through the ether like the theremin's song. Steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, Sean Michaels's debut novel explores the lies we tell, the truths we imagine, and the lengths we go to survive.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781935639817
  • ISBN-10: 1935639811
  • Publisher: Tin House Books
  • Publish Date: June 2014
  • Page Count: 459
  • Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > Political

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-02-10
  • Reviewer: Staff

Michaels’s first novel glitters, threatens, and sometimes horrifies, but it lacks a center. The book is a fictionalized autobiography of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, the Russian scientist and inventor of the theremin, an eerie electronic musical instrument. Sent to America to demonstrate Soviet ingenuity and to make deals with Western investors, Lev enjoys the Prohibition-era high life and weathers the stock market crash of 1929, while reporting to his minders and spying as assigned. In a novel so deeply concerned with the Communism of Lenin and Stalin, it’s notable that Lev’s character has a near total absence of interest in questions of political economy and personal freedom. He progresses through many stages of use and abuse at the hands of his government, and then goes through a period of relatively benign imprisonment, surprised that a fellow inmate makes a point of refusing to volunteer for extra labor. Lev meets the love of his life in America, but he can’t make it work with her and doesn’t understand why. Perhaps his other marriages are part of the problem—and why does he keep marrying, anyway? Michaels renders historical moments that are interesting in themselves but ultimately can’t compensate for his opaque hero. (June)

 
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