How young is too young to die

Jan Valetov: "Zone. Too young to die"

With Jan Valetov, Piper introduces us to an author from the Ukraine who already has a few books on his account, but none of them has yet been translated into a Western language. In a nutshell: "Zone" is a conventional post-pandemic narrative with a lot of violence, and unfortunately the language is one of the many victims. Although by and large told to the end, a final effect suggests that a sequel is not entirely out of the question. However, I can rule out that I will read them.

To the plot

Almost 100 years before the time of the action, a virus broke out of a laboratory that has continued to have an impact today and is now mythical the merciless one is mentioned: Almost exactly on the 18th birthday, rapid aging sets in, which causes the person concerned to mummify within an hour. And everyone is infected. The consequence: In a world without adults, young people have relapsed into a brutal tribal society in which the most frequently falling sentence "Be the first to die!" reads. In short, "Zone" tries to conjure up the scenario of William Golding's classic "The Lord of the Flies" on a global scale.

The scene of the action, which extends across places like City, Town or park (a former amusement park for children) is deliberately kept vague - only in the second "book" of the three-part band do we find out where we actually are. But it's not that important either. park In any case, the tribal society typical of his age, in which all boys have to hunt and wage war, while all girls have to look after their homes and hearth, but above all have to give birth to children by the meter.

This way will be a long one

However, the two main characters are not made for their intended gender roles. The boyish (and quite unscrupulous when it comes to violence) Belka has long gone to the hermitage. As a bookworm Tim, mostly just called a nerd, who is supposed to be lynched because of his inability to hunt, Belka is there and saves him. Together they make their way to a place where there is supposed to be an antidote to the virus, as Tim read in the diary of a contemporary witness. On the cover of "Zone" the word "Antivirus" (whatever that is supposed to be) is mentioned, later it is called an "antidote". The concept is not really well thought out.

In any case, the way there is longer than that of the dwarfs from the "Hobbit" film trilogy on Lonely Mountain. Mainly because Tim and Belka are being followed by an angry mob from more and more tribes, all of which would like to have the "antivirus". So mainly there is fighting and even more fighting.

The spark of hope quickly dies

This part ends with a cliffhanger, and before the action in "Book 3" can continue, Valetov has brutally rammed in a 150-page center part that takes us back to the days of the pandemic outbreak. It's got off to a promising start, but all too soon lapses into the same race-shoot-massacre mode that we already know. Within two weeks the world will look like it did 97 years later.

The main character of this part is Hanna, who wrote the said diary. Interestingly, it never mentions that she actually writes in it - just as it never describes how Tim reads in it. The diary would have offered a lot of possibilities to elegantly combine the two time levels. Instead, the different parts of the novel do not correspond to one another at all. Then there are logic deficiencies: How did Hanna know details that could potentially be life-saving in the end? Okay, her father was a secret bearer in a military facility - but does that mean she is familiar with everyday laboratory work? And the fact that the virus apparently spread at the speed of light at the time should not go unmentioned. Again: badly thought out.

Merciless use of language

The straw that finally breaks the camel's back is language. "Zone" is told in such an inconsistent style that the flow of reading stagnates again and again. ass and Po don't come from the same world, please make a decision. For the most part, Valetov relies on vulgar language, which fits the dirty circumstances - but in between there are stilted metaphors, wooden formulations and blooms such as: In fact, his weapon was already spewing out fire. Hopefully in a bowl.

And why do some tribesmen have Anglicized names like Runner or Rubbish, while others Slasher and Funeral lump be called? Normally I would blame such incongruities on a bad translation. However, I have already read Sergej Lukianenko's novels by the same translator and I didn't notice anything like that. So maybe the raw material was modest after all, and no one had the nerve to refine it - neither in translation nor in proofreading. And the novel urgently needed stricter editing: To smooth it out linguistically, but also because it is far too long for what is on offer.

With the keyword Jan Valetov, almost only copies of Piper's short biography can be found on the Internet. In search of more detailed information, I finally came across a text apparently created with Google Translate, which glorifies Valetov's work and at the same time contains some screamingly funny formulations that only machine translations can produce. So there is considered to be one of Valetov's strengths "Fighting Fiction" called (meant something like military action) ... well, so I would not formulate my judgment about "Zone" in a destructive way. But of course I can't recommend a book that contains thoughtless sentences like: Something in her had temporarily died or frozen. How one wanted to see it.