the Little Red Reviewer

The Tel Aviv Dossier, by Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv

Posted on: December 6, 2010

  It’s Chanukah, so the timing is just right for my review of Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv’s The Tel Aviv Dossier. Yet another book that looks like it would be religious, but isn’t. 

Taking place in an Israeli metropolis and peppered with Hebrew slang, this story of destruction, horror, and rebirth could happen anywhere. But trust me, you don’t want it to. The blurb on the back of the book says something about “Lovecraftian echoes”, and I got every bit of Lovecraftian horror I was hoping for. 

Something is happening in Tel Aviv. Something unexplainable, something horrible, and it’s happening right now. Tornadoes come out of the ocean, high winds pull people out of open windows and death is everywhere. Is it the apocalypse? The Messiah? Something else entirely? 

The first half of the book,  includes testaments, recordings, transcripts and digital recordings of people’s initial responses during the “event”. Jumping from character to character and neighborhood to neighborhood, there is Eli the sociopathic and demented fireman, Hagar the videographer, Daniel the Yeshiva dropout, and letters from random people, a child who sees the wind rip someone out of the sky and thinks it would be fun to fly. Some of these people survive the event, some of them don’t. 

When the dust settles and the killer winds have died down, the face of Tel Aviv has changed forever. A huge mountain now sits where the city center was. Looking different, smelling different, covered in plants and trees never seen before, this mountain is not of our world. 

One year later, and the Israeli government decides it’s time to sent their best agent. Their agent, Sam, is instructed by the Prime Minister to get to the bottom of things and find out what the hell is going on, and instructed by the head Rabbi to bring the Messiah back to Jerusalem. 

In Tel Aviv, the original survivors have forms factions and gangs, and have looted much of the city. It’s fascinating to see how a few loud groups can turn into rabid factions of belief and faith after just one year. The before and after allow the reader to witness exactly what happened before the event, and to see how people words and actions can be misinterpreted afterwards, a little like a never ending game of operator. Fact turns to exaggerated story, exaggerated story turns to legend, legend turns to myth, and because someone has faith, it’s all true. 

At only 200 pages, most characterization and world building is on the slimmed down side. But the weird and unsettling Lovecraftian bits? On a scale of one to ten, those are cranked up to about twelve. This book is very, very strange, which means it’s a great read!

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4 Responses to "The Tel Aviv Dossier, by Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv"

I love books set up like that–a variety of responses to a particular disaster. Too bad it’s usually found in zombie apocalypse books, and I hate zombies… :)

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I’m glad to see that you enjoyed the book though I have to admit that it was a little too weird for me. It was an interesting experience, though, reading about the destruction of the Tel Aviv bus station while sitting in the bus station itself.

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that would be mighty creepy, sitting in the bus station while you are reading about it’s destruction!

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