Aleksei Nikitin

Istemi Istemi (Y.T. - Your Turn)
Novel. Ad Marginem. Moscow 2011. 208 pages
Foreign rights: Italy, UK

Ukraine, 1984. The Soviet Union is creaking toward collapse, and a group of bored radiophysics students devise a strategy game to keep themselves entertained. But war games are no joke, and no sooner does their game get underway than the KGB pulls the students in for questioning. Eventually they’re released, but they remain marked men.

The second time line of the novel starts twenty years later, capitalism is in full swing when one member of the group, Davidov, receives an e-mail with a familiar ultimatum attached. Someone has revived the game, but it’s not any of his friends from the university . . . and the consequences now feel more real than ever.

ISTEMI follows an innocent-seeming game to its darkest places, and the result is a disturbing vision of war and tyranny. ISTEMI is a wildly inventive novel exploring the banality deep in the heart of a paranoid totalitarian state.