I Am Radar: Book summary and reviews of I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

I Am Radar

by Reif Larsen

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen X
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen
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  • Published Feb 2015
    656 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

The moment just before Radar Radmanovic is born, all of the hospital's electricity mysteriously fails. The delivery takes place in total darkness. Lights back on, the staff sees a healthy baby boy - with pitch-black skin - born to the stunned white parents. No one understands the uncanny electrical event or the unexpected skin color. "A childbirth is an explosion," the ancient physician says by way of explanation. "Some shrapnel is inevitable, isn't it?"

A kaleidoscopic novel both heartbreaking and dazzling, Reif Larsen's I Am Radar begins with Radar's perplexing birth but rapidly explodes outward, carrying readers across the globe and throughout history, as well as to unknown regions where radio waves and subatomic particles dance to their own design. Spanning this extraordinary range with grace and empathy, humor and courage, I Am Radar is the vessel where a century of conflict and art unite in a mesmerizing narrative whole.

Deep in arctic Norway, a cadre of Norwegian schoolteachers is imprisoned during the Second World War. Founding a radical secret society that will hover on the margins of recorded history for decades to come, these schoolteachers steal radioactive material from a hidden Nazi nuclear reactor and use it to stage a surreal art performance on a frozen coastline. This strange society appears again in the aftermath of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime, when another secret performance takes place but goes horrifically wrong. Echoes of this disaster can be heard during the Yugoslavian wars, when an avant-garde puppeteer finds himself trapped inside Belgrade, while his brother serves in the genocidal militia that attacks Srebrenica. Decades later, in the war-torn Congo, a disfigured literature professor assembles the largest library in the world even as the country around him collapses. All of these stories are linked by Radar - now a gifted radio operator living in the New Jersey Meadowlands - who struggles with love, a set of hapless parents, and a terrible medical affliction that he has only just begun to comprehend.

As I Am Radar accelerates toward its unforgettable conclusion, these divergent strands slowly begin to converge, revealing that beneath our apparent differences, unseen harmonies secretly unite our lives.

Drawing on the furthest reaches of quantum physics, forgotten history, and mind-bending art, Larsen's I Am Radar is a triumph of storytelling at its most primal, elegant, and epic: a breathtaking journey through humanity's darkest hours only to arrive at a place of shocking wonder and redemption.

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Reviews

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BookBrowse Review
"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players." This certainly feels true in I Am Radar, Reif Larsen's compelling sophomore follow-up to his fantastic debut. A secret theater group in Norway; an electrical repairman, his wife and their son, Radar Ramanovic in New Jersey; a Frenchman and his adopted son in French Cambodia; and a family torn apart by war in Serbia - are all connected by a sweeping narrative that travels to hot spots around the globe.

It's difficult to remember when I was this conflicted about a novel. I expected great things from I Am Radar and in many ways, the book delivers. It is 650 pages long and kept me absorbed right until the very end (except for one part, which is both metaphorically and literally at sea). This in itself is an impressive feat. It is obvious that Reif Larsen has prodigious volumes of talent and his novel dazzles often. Yet the central conceit about performance art as imagined by some key characters just didn't draw me in. I found it difficult to buy into this premise and unfortunately when the scaffolding itself is shaky (or at least if the reader is not readily invested in it) the rest can teeter easily. I Am Radar is frequently brilliant and has great writing but the story kept me at a remove. In the end, I still can't decide how I feel about the novel, it certainly is fascinating and gripping and I left impressed with Larsen's writing but wished it had been corralled into a plot that didn't have me question its plausibility as frequently as I did.


Other Reviews
"Starred Review. Gripping… Masterly...This is a sprawling, engrossing novel about the ravages of war and the triumph of art. Larsen is an effortless magician, and his performance here is a pure delight." - Publishers Weekly

"If Larsen's story makes demands of its readers, it also offers plenty of rewards. Imaginative, original, nicely surreal - and hyperpigmentarily so." - Kirkus

This information about I Am Radar was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Reif Larsen

Reif Larsen's first novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, was a New York Times bestseller and is currently translated in twenty-seven languages. The novel was a 2010 Montana Honor book and an IndieBound Award finalist; was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and was adapted into a movie by Jean- Pierre Jeunet (Amelié). Larsen's writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Tin House, one story, The Millions, Asymptote Journal, and The Believer. Larsen is currently serving as the writer-in-residence at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

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