The Black Pelican

Fiction - General
514 Pages
Reviewed on 01/27/2014
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Black Pelican is a work of literary fiction written by Vadim Babenko and translated from the Russian by author Henry Whittlesey. The reader sets out on a journey with the narrator, a young man who has left the capital city. He's divested himself of his belongings and his job, and is headed for the city of M, armed with a secret that he holds close. Vitus has become disaffected and disappointed in life, and feels that the only solution is to murder Julian, a co-worker who got the promotion he should have had and who stole Vera, the newly-wed assistant who Vitus had seduced within three weeks of her marriage. Julian is somewhere in the city of M, and Vitus is ready to hunt him down. He finds a hotel in M, and the innkeeper seems oddly eager to help him with his search.

Vadim Babenko's literary novel, The Black Pelican, is not a simple book to read, but there are marvels and mysteries waiting within its pages, as well as fantastical dreams and images. It is peopled by saints and sinners and all manner of beings. This was one of those books that made me smile to myself as I read the opening lines and realize that I reading something very special indeed -- and I was in no way disappointed. The Black Pelican, in fact, exceeded my wildest expectations. It is an amazing work that called to mind other 'difficult' books such as Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, Mann's Magic Mountain and Broch's Death of Virgil. It's that good. The Black Pelican is a truly awesome read.

Brenda Ballard

The Black Pelican by Vadim Babenko is a suspenseful, somewhat 'dark intrigue' type of novel. Vitus, the main character, leaves his home to pursue a person who is known to have relocated to the city of M. Here he finds more mystery than answers, and the people he meets are strange and questionable at best. Julian, the reason for his arrival, has eluded Vitus again, but that is the beginning of his tribulation. Finding himself in the midst of a treasure seeking minded group of people, his travels expand to the dunes. If he thought he had experienced a tough time up to that point, he is in for a rude awakening as he discovers who he is and what he is capable of. And that the mythical Black Pelican is indeed very real.

When I started reading Vadim Babenko's The Black Pelican, it was a little rough to get into and I found myself going back and starting over. The key was to remove the distractions and let the story speak, which it did and in great volumes. This is a masterful nail-biter that begs for its pages to be turned until that last page leaves you staring into space, analyzing what just happened. I love books like this! There are a few places where the reader has to persevere and allow the story to play out in order to make complete sense of it all. But when it "clicks," off you go to the next part of the saga, second guessing and attempting predictions that clearly are not going to happen. A super great read, especially if you don't put it down until you finish the whole story!!

Carol Thompson

Vadim Babenko's The Black Pelican is a riveting story about a man who plans revenge against the world. In Babenko's words, "When Vitus, driven to the brink by devastating blows, plans his revenge against the entire world, he cannot even imagine what he is getting into. He hits the road and arrives in the strangest of places, the mysterious, rumor-shrouded city of M., to implement his secret plan to kill his longtime enemy, Julian. However, once there, his search for Julian proves futile. Trapped in a complicated muddle, he makes a desperate move, joining a group of fortune-hunting strangers. Together, they delve deep into the ocean dunes that are home to the most fearsome of legends… To his shock, the legend – the Black Pelican – turns out to be very real. Finally, the world notices Vitus, offering him a chance to demonstrate his potential. Forced to endure fear, pain, and despair, he discovers an unexpected inner fortitude. He suffers defeat – but he also gains victory by insisting on his own terms, despite the humiliation and mockery surrounding him."

The Black Pelican is a long book, perhaps a bit longer than it need be, but Babenko's writing is engaging and riveting, so it's not tedious reading. It's written in the first person, a POV I normally don't enjoy reading, but it really works for this story. The characters are well developed and very realistic. The plot is interesting and the way the story is told makes it feel very real, as if watching a movie. The dialogue is exceptionally well done and Babenko doesn't waste space on idle chatter. The dialogue serves its purpose and for me it was refreshing to read a book that wasn't filled with non-essential exchanges. The Hemingway-style writing is masterfully done and the ending is not disappointing. It's a book definitely worthy of a five-star rating.

Mamta Madhavan

In The Black Pelican by Vadim Babenko, the story revolves around revenge and fury. Vitus wants to take revenge on the entire world because he is frustrated and angry with the happenings in his life. He arrives by road at another mysterious city to kill his longtime enemy, Julian. He makes a desperate attempt to make his plans work by joining hands with a group of strangers. In their journey together, they explore the places that house the most scary legends. Vitus finds out that one of the legends, that of the Black Pelican is real. Though Vitus faces defeat and humiliation, he discovers an inner strength and confidence within himself.

The story has a lot of depth in terms of the emotions of the main character, Vitus. His despair, anger, and frustration bring out the bad side within him to make him spiteful and revengeful. The characterization is very powerful and you feel the story and the protagonist growing on you slowly. The narration is detailed and descriptive, slowing down the pace, but readers find themselves drawn to the story. The Black Pelican, with all the mystery surrounding its character, adds to the intrigue and suspense of the story.

The book reveals the expert weaving of intrigue, suspense, and mystery together with the revenge-seeking mentality of Vitus. The rest of the characters in the story are developed to support the main characters very well. The story ends on a positive note with Vitus changing his perspective on what life has to offer to him. A very compelling story and an engaging read.