Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur

Availability: Ready to download

Victor Pelevin, the iconoclastic and wildly interesting contemporary Russian novelist who The New Yorker named one of the Best European Writers Under 35, upends any conventional notions of what mythology must be with his unique take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. By creating a mesmerizing world where the surreal and the hyperreal collide, The Helmet of Horror is a radical re Victor Pelevin, the iconoclastic and wildly interesting contemporary Russian novelist who The New Yorker named one of the Best European Writers Under 35, upends any conventional notions of what mythology must be with his unique take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. By creating a mesmerizing world where the surreal and the hyperreal collide, The Helmet of Horror is a radical retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur set in an Internet chat room. They have never met, they have been assigned strange pseudonyms, they inhabit identical rooms that open out onto very different landscapes, and they have entered a dialogue they cannot escape — a discourse defined and destroyed by the Helmet of Horror. Its wearer is the dominant force they call Asterisk, a force for good and ill in which the Minotaur is forever present and Theseus is the great unknown. The Helmet of Horror is structured according to the way we communicate in the twenty-first century — using the Internet — yet instilled with the figures and narratives of classical mythology. It is a labyrinthine examination of epistemological uncertainty that radically reinvents this myth for an age where information is abundant but knowledge ultimately unattainable.


Compare
Ads Banner

Victor Pelevin, the iconoclastic and wildly interesting contemporary Russian novelist who The New Yorker named one of the Best European Writers Under 35, upends any conventional notions of what mythology must be with his unique take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. By creating a mesmerizing world where the surreal and the hyperreal collide, The Helmet of Horror is a radical re Victor Pelevin, the iconoclastic and wildly interesting contemporary Russian novelist who The New Yorker named one of the Best European Writers Under 35, upends any conventional notions of what mythology must be with his unique take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. By creating a mesmerizing world where the surreal and the hyperreal collide, The Helmet of Horror is a radical retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur set in an Internet chat room. They have never met, they have been assigned strange pseudonyms, they inhabit identical rooms that open out onto very different landscapes, and they have entered a dialogue they cannot escape — a discourse defined and destroyed by the Helmet of Horror. Its wearer is the dominant force they call Asterisk, a force for good and ill in which the Minotaur is forever present and Theseus is the great unknown. The Helmet of Horror is structured according to the way we communicate in the twenty-first century — using the Internet — yet instilled with the figures and narratives of classical mythology. It is a labyrinthine examination of epistemological uncertainty that radically reinvents this myth for an age where information is abundant but knowledge ultimately unattainable.

30 review for The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Did the author understand what he was thinking? If I had written a review of this novel the first time I read it, it would have been short and sweet: [email protected] "What the xxx?" Wish I had done that, instead of taking it on a second time. If I had written a review after that reading, it would probably have been a tedious analysis of the traces of Greek mythology I could find in the strange internet community featured in the novel - consisting entirely of a long chat room t Did the author understand what he was thinking? If I had written a review of this novel the first time I read it, it would have been short and sweet: [email protected] "What the xxx?" Wish I had done that, instead of taking it on a second time. If I had written a review after that reading, it would probably have been a tedious analysis of the traces of Greek mythology I could find in the strange internet community featured in the novel - consisting entirely of a long chat room thread. Wish I had done that, instead of proving my insanity by TAKING IT ON A THIRD TIME! So, here I am, trying to review this novel, in order to prevent myself from reading it a fourth time. To be honest, I was very optimistic at times. I kept thinking: "I think I get it now, it makes sense, sort of..." But then again, there were phases when I was completely lost: "How come I don't remember ANYTHING of this thread, having read it TWICE before?" And then the end came, and I resigned myself to not getting it. Whoever thinks The Life of Insects - with its characters metamorphosing between humans and insects - is strange, try this little hell in Sartre's Huis clos, suivi de Les mouches style: Characters remotely resembling literary role models from different world classics are put into a building, where they stay isolated in rooms that provide their bare necessities and a screen to communicate via some kind of intranet, resembling the internet, but without connection to the outside world. Ariadne opens a thread (who else could take on that role in a labyrinth?), and all characters start to analyse their reality in order to understand their situation and to find a way out. It turns out everyone has access to the labyrinth, and to some information regarding the guardians of the building. While sharing their experiences, it transpires that each member of the group sees a reality that fits his or her profile. Romeo and Isolde are looking for love (but obviously they are ill-matched lovers, as they belong to different love stories). There is a character with a deeply religious take on life, seeing the maze as punishment. There are technical and metaphysical explanations for the reality they all perceive. Some of the characters suffer from not knowing whether the others really exist, and are afraid of conspiracies. All pursue the goal to discover who is the master of the labyrinth, the Minotaur, wearing the helmet of horror, a symbol for past, present and future perception of life. The horns of plenty on the helmet (symbolising the bull in the Minotaur) contain everything humankind knows about itself. Ariadne trying to explain the helmet of horror and the horns of plenty to the others after discussing them with a dwarf in a dream (DON'T ASK!), is as close to making sense as you will get in this novel: "Because they contain all sorts of everything - tender feelings, sidelong glances, exalted words, final thoughts and everything else. A genuine treasure house or rubbish tip. But all this infinite variety actually consists entirely of past. As far as I could understand it, the horns of plenty operate like enrichment units in a chemical plant. When it's driven through them by the force of circumstances, past gets mixed up with everything else, becoming richer and acquiring value, with the result that bubbles of hope are produced in the occipital braid, go gurgling through the region of the future, are reflected in Tarkovsky's mirror and perceived as the novel freshness of a brand new day." At this point, my horns of plenty had produced quite a few bubbles of desperation! The characters try to understand the meaning of their existence by analysing the mechanisms of their perceptions and behaviours, and what (or who) triggers them. There are as many solutions as there are individuals, of course. "Everyone has his own Minotaur, she said, but in reality it's not he who pursues us, we pursue him. And the labyrinth in which we seek him is the dopamine chains of pleasure linking up into the rings of the human brain - they're different for everyone, as unique as fingerprints." Reading this, I understood that I was actually chasing my personal Minotaur in this novel, not willing to accept that I didn't understand it, voluntarily entering the labyrinth over and over again to beat the Minotaur of my literary vanity! And this is the moment I turned into Theseus: destroying the mystery of the Minotaur by understanding the pattern (in my personal, unique helmet of horror, that is!). The book literally disintegrated, the characters lost their ability to speak properly, and found themselves face to face with a tabula rasa, a new thread that will lead them on a new journey through the maze, with bubbles of hope, horns of plenty, and individual interpretations! Did you understand my review? Yes? Then I did not explain the book properly...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Hungry Labyrinth Thread #00000001: Started by ARIADNE at xxx p.m. xxx xxx BC GMT ‘No one realised that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same …’ – who said thIs and about what? :-) Sarpedontosaurus: What’s going on? Where am I? Sarpedontosaurus: Hi? Is there anyone else here …? Pls reply ... Sarpedontosaurus: I see that I have been "liked". What does that mean? This is weird. Hello? Borgesausaurus: I'm here - can't you hear my voice echoing down the labyrinth of years/>:/>: : :

  3. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    The Helmet of Horror is what I called the spongiform cap of my third eye during the period when I had a nasty urinary tract infection. It is also Russian writer Victor Pelevin's contribution to the Canongate series of modern authorial reinterpretations of the classic myths—in this particular case, that of Theseus and the Minotaur. In a marvelous bit of inspiration, Pelevin has opted to set his tale within a singular textual thread—geddit?—scrolling upon a computer screen and generated by a handful of personages who have found the The Helmet of Horror is what I called the spongiform cap of my third eye during the period when I had a nasty urinary tract infection. It is also Russian writer Victor Pelevin's contribution to the Canongate series of modern authorial reinterpretations of the classic myths—in this particular case, that of Theseus and the Minotaur. In a marvelous bit of inspiration, Pelevin has opted to set his tale within a singular textual thread—geddit?—scrolling upon a computer screen and generated by a handful of personages who have found themselves—without any memory of how they got there—ensconced, perhaps imprisoned within separate rooms sporting a keyboard and monitor, sparse furnishings, and an attendant labyrinth tailored to each of their disparate personalities. Known to each other only by their screen names—Organizm(-:, Monstradamus, Nutscracker, Ariadne, Romeo-y-Cohiba, UGLI 666, IsoldA and Sartrik—and what they are allowed to type in real-time conversations—an unknown and arbitrary censor replaces offending text with a signature XXX—they are required, via this limited medium for discourse, to figure out exactly where they are, what connexions they share, and what purpose their unknown keeper has in assembling them for this incorporeal exchange. And that's it. The entire book is one vast comment chain, with each named participant displaying the differentiated aspects of their revealed personalities, ofttimes through banal and/or rhetorical quips, that will both help and hinder their attempts to piece together the puzzle of their amnesiac assemblage and what relevance their customized labyrinths bear towards it. Pelevin's use of floating voices, anchored only to the words they proclaim, serves as the perfect vehicle for his existential exploration, a deft, humorous, and circuitous exchange upon the nature of consciousness, the duality of mind and body, and the meaning of our existence in a physical environ that projects its illusions and taunts with its meaninglessness at seemingly every moment. Via the dream dispensations of Ariadne, this text-bound collective is made aware of the sinisterly looming presence of a Helmet of Horror, a complexly constructed and intertwined artifact with various layers and gadgetry whose function is to create the present and anticipate the future from the chambered arising, dissection, and wheat/chaff combing of the perduring past—linear and yet timeless in its omnipresent operation, an Eternal Return that never began conceived by a cross-eyed Nietzsche with a ganja 'stache. In fact, as its various mechanisms are brought to light through the questioning probes of this chatroom crew, the helmet seems a to serve as a nifty allegory for a particular view of the human predicament. We are the enactors not the authors of our own being—and in facing down the Gordian knot of conscious paradox we can fume and fret upon why the author pens in such maddening prose and tends to tricksiness in plotting ends and means. The entire affair unfolds almost as if in a B-movie horror starring a Descartes or Berkeley who ogle the ladies and revel in farting and poop jokes—though, for all I know, that last bit might be a redundancy. With the interlocutors discovering the provision of food and beds, as well as limited egress outside into a bizarre maze-world ordered by a pair of dwarfs and their titanic master and capable of springing a few nasty surprises, things proceed towards the anticipatory intervention of Theseus, famed from yore. But as his arrival becomes imminent, the drugs kick in and Pelevin knocks over the apple-cart in gleeful fashion. MOOOOOO! MOOOOOO! MOOOOOO! Indeed, the author crafts a perfect ending for this particular book, entirely in keeping with the qualities that define its fictive essence: funny, strange, swift-paced, and a heady puzzle to try and piece together. In fact, I'm afraid that I can stake no claim to having done so conclusively yet; but I'll be damned if those cow calls aren't echoing on the replay as I continue to try and come up with a definitive picture*. *Hmmm, come to think of it, I might just have hit that nail on the head...

  4. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    A Book for All Seasons: an animal (ok, it’s a Minotaur) on the cover I think this is too deeply philosophical for me to give it justice. I vacillated between a two and a four so settled on a three. Everyone has his own version of a labyrinth just hiding inside himself full of of mystery and questions. It’s how we choose to rescue ourselves and who we allow to help us that determines our self worth.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    This book is a total mindf*ck. - Thoughts on The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin (translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield) Here’s the thing: I don’t know what to feel about this book. It frustrates me; it frustrates me to no end after reading. You see, I didn’t get it. No, that's not true, because I did, really, generally get it. But that’s the thing, see – it’s the surface things that I understood, but for anyone who’s ever read Victor Pelevin, there’s always more to his books, and The Helmet of This book is a total mindf*ck. - Thoughts on The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin (translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield) Here’s the thing: I don’t know what to feel about this book. It frustrates me; it frustrates me to no end after reading. You see, I didn’t get it. No, that's not true, because I did, really, generally get it. But that’s the thing, see – it’s the surface things that I understood, but for anyone who’s ever read Victor Pelevin, there’s always more to his books, and The Helmet of Horror is no exception. Merely understanding does not cut it. So why am I so frustrated? Why don’t I just altogether hate the book and be done with it? Because it’s so good, that’s why – it is dark, it is funny, it’s subtle, it’s shrewd. It loses you and then pulls you back again and then loses you again, but this time it is you who forces yourself back in it. It is a labyrinthine book about labyrinths – actual and imagined, in all shapes and sizes and meaning – and nothing gets crazier than that. Pelevin’s modern (and nothing says modern more than a chatroom conversation by virtual strangers, from different backgrounds and with different issues in life) adaptation of the story of the labyrinth, the Minotaur (half man, half bull), Ariadne and Theseus, The Helmet of Horror gets weirder and darker and seemingly confounded as it progresses. It reminds me of the movie Saw, only minus the bloodshed and more of a psychological thriller of sorts. “I shall construct a labyrinth in which I can lose myself, together with anyone who tries to find me,” so it begins, opening up a cyberworld devoid of time and true identity, and touches on aspects of religion, philosophy, politics, technology, even love. “In fact, the whole cycle is simply the circulation of now in various states of mind, in the same way that water can be ice, or the sea, or thirst.” And yet, with all that heaviness, Pelevin nevertheless threw in some irony and humor for good measure – moments that allowed for one to breathe in-between lines. Mind you, though, these were inserted by Pelevin in the long-winded conversations so discreetly, so as not to mess with the whole somber, mysterious mood of the book. A sampling: “Dead people don’t hang around in chat rooms.” “People go bald because they have no choice, but they shave their heads out of self-respect.” “If you had genuinely free choice, the results could be pretty miserable.” “If we start worrying about spies, pretty soon the world will be full of them.” And my favorite, on the subject of free will – not only because the analogy is funny, but because it’s so true, too: “Life’s like falling off a roof. Can you stop on the way? No. Can you turn back? No. Can you fly off sideways? Only in an advertisement for underpants specially made for jumping off roofs. all free will means is you can choose whether to fart in mid-flight or wait till you hit the ground. And that’s what all the philosophers argue about.” This book deserves a re-read – one day, when I’m ready enough to devour the book entirely, and not just nibble on the surface. And if this is how Pelevin leaves me after reading his books – babbling and confused – the by Jove, bring it on. PS. The title isn’t a quote from the book – I couldn’t find one (or if there was one, I’d have missed it) to fully encompass what the book is. Also, it really is a mindfuck. PPS. Look out for Romeo-y-Cohiba and IsoldA - they’re my favorite of the bunch of online misfits. Originally posted here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Namrirru

    I could not put this book down! I loved it! It was so interesting and clever. But it's not the type of book that everyone would like. A group of very different people are locked into a labyrinth that reflects their own personalities. They can communicate with each other through an online chatroom. The text of the book is what they write to each other as they're trying to figure out how they got there and why they're there. I was a little disappointed in the ending. Like a deflated wet balloon, b I could not put this book down! I loved it! It was so interesting and clever. But it's not the type of book that everyone would like. A group of very different people are locked into a labyrinth that reflects their own personalities. They can communicate with each other through an online chatroom. The text of the book is what they write to each other as they're trying to figure out how they got there and why they're there. I was a little disappointed in the ending. Like a deflated wet balloon, but it's probably the only logical conclusion one could make out of the story. The whole story - a prank on the reader.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ape

    Oh my goodness. I think I need to go and lie down in a quiet dark room for a while now. This is one of the maddest, strangest, most addictive, frightening and funny books I've read in a long time. I feel like I've been given the meaning of life and yet I don't understand what on earth was going on at the same time. Mad. I can't recommend this enough. "Monstradamus I don't understand what the difference is between the two stories. Nutscracker The difference is one' Oh my goodness. I think I need to go and lie down in a quiet dark room for a while now. This is one of the maddest, strangest, most addictive, frightening and funny books I've read in a long time. I feel like I've been given the meaning of life and yet I don't understand what on earth was going on at the same time. Mad. I can't recommend this enough. "Monstradamus I don't understand what the difference is between the two stories. Nutscracker The difference is one's about a dream and one's about reality. Monstradamus But all I can see are letters on a screen." (p.138) Yes, the internet is an unreal and terrible thing taking over reality!! This book is a lot more than just about why the internet can be scary. It's part of the Canongate series of myths books - this particular one taking on the Minataur's labyrinth. To give a rough intro, a number of people all wake up alone in rooms where there is a computer screen with access to just the one thread on a chatroom. No one knows how they got into their room. And outside of the room there are different things for different people - grecian style labyrinths, middle ages Christianity in the form of a cathedral, strange dreams with bull headed men and dwarves, a video editing suite... all sorts. The only means they have to contact one another is this chatroom thread. And this entire tale is told as a transcript of that chatroom thread. So you gradually get to know the characters, where they are, what they think is going on and how they're going to get out. And, it's just.... it has to be read. I think there's a bit where I appear (and anyone else who reads this book). I think the first letters of the usernames spell something. I think. I think. I think. I definately think I could read this again and again and discover new things every time. I tell myself I'm not meant to understand this one all in one go.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melanti

    This is one of those experimental books that's trying to be too clever for its own good. It's supposedly taking place in a chat room where all these captives are mysteriously chatting with each other to compare their experiences in captivity... But the format (chat log) was really annoying and the author didn't really do anything interesting with it. No emoting. No multiple threads going at the same time. No private messages. Nothing. I can sometimes get behind experimental fiction an This is one of those experimental books that's trying to be too clever for its own good. It's supposedly taking place in a chat room where all these captives are mysteriously chatting with each other to compare their experiences in captivity... But the format (chat log) was really annoying and the author didn't really do anything interesting with it. No emoting. No multiple threads going at the same time. No private messages. Nothing. I can sometimes get behind experimental fiction and strange book formats, but IMO, you have to do something interesting with it. And this just doesn't. There's no real reason the conversations and philosophy etc, couldn't have been presented a different way. And, IMO, if I can't point out a reason that a book is formatted strangely, it hasn't earned the right to be strangely formatted.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Woodman

    I did not love this but it was very clever. In The Helmet of Horror Victor Pelevin re-sets the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in a very modern setting -- what has the appearance of an Internet chatroom. After a 'Mythcellaneous' prologue, the entire text consists of dialogue, between a group of people who find themselves in similar mysterious circumstances, isolated, and connected only to each other via computer screen and keyboard. It's not quite the Internet but it's quite a group, and I did not love this but it was very clever. In The Helmet of Horror Victor Pelevin re-sets the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in a very modern setting -- what has the appearance of an Internet chatroom. After a 'Mythcellaneous' prologue, the entire text consists of dialogue, between a group of people who find themselves in similar mysterious circumstances, isolated, and connected only to each other via computer screen and keyboard. It's not quite the Internet but it's quite a group, and it all begins with ... Ariadne's thread (though Ariadne only returns to the fray a while later). There's also some sort of monitor somewhere on the line that exerts some sort of control -- preventing the exchange of a lot of personal information, as well as swear words, replacing these with "xxx". (The monitor's real-time powers in these regards suggest that it might -- or at least could -- be doing other things as well.) In their separate but nearly identical rooms (or cells), dressed up in ancient Greek tunics, the characters find themselves in a sort of labyrinth and try to talk their way out of it. or at least figure out what is going on, leading to a great deal of what amounts to philosophical speculation, as their situation poses fundamental questions about the nature of perception and reality. There are a variety of clues in the rooms themselves that push the discussion forward (and make their fate/situation clearer), and some of the characters offer additional information as well -- especially Ariadne and her dreams. Pelevin uses the set-up fairly cleverly, and there are quite a few good bits here as well as some pretty sharp dialogue ("Oh Mama ! When I hear the word 'discourse', I reach for my simulacrum"). The 'helmet of horror' idea itself is also decent, though Pelevin does try to do a bit much with it: The helmet of horror fractionates the one thing that is, into the multitude of things that are not. But since the helmet of horror is in no way the one thing that is, it is also one of the multitude of things that are not. As a variation on the Minotaur's labyrinth, Pelevin does come up with some ingenious ideas, but on the whole it's more clever than a convincing re-imaging of the myth. Pelevin offers enough to amuse and entertain, but it doesn't feel like he's done all that he could with the material and this specific approach.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Negin

    i can shorten the review in a sentence: " i didnt understand a single thing " . i gave ⭐⭐ to this book because it was frustrating to no end , and the only good point of all this was the orginal plot and cleverness of each sentence, nothing less and nothing more. i suppose its my stupidy or the lack of philsophical thoughts in me that i didnt understand a damn thing ,i dont know for sure but something is for sure , the plot was so orginal, but stagnant at the same time . i mean nothing i can shorten the review in a sentence: " i didnt understand a single thing " . i gave ⭐️⭐️ to this book because it was frustrating to no end , and the only good point of all this was the orginal plot and cleverness of each sentence, nothing less and nothing more. i suppose its my stupidy or the lack of philsophical thoughts in me that i didnt understand a damn thing ,i dont know for sure but something is for sure , the plot was so orginal, but stagnant at the same time . i mean nothing particular happened at all . just a bunch of boys and girls conversing in a chatroom that God knows how it had appeared on their screens from the first place . this will not be a book that I willingly would pick out of my shelf and reread again . never in a billion years . no one had any idea in the book and everyone was wandering in and out of some hallucinations and dreams , you would probably say " the book was kind of mythic and its normal not to be as understandable " but then i would say " there are thousands of mythic books out there that are actually so interesting and catchy " . the ending was fogged-up as well , like i didnt really get how on earth they had got out of their screened-cells and to the real world , nothing was clear and if you'd like to self harm and torture by reading a very complicated and twisted book , i highly recommend The helmet of horror , its the best book for you , i assure that . here's a paragraph or tow of what i've been talking about all this time : Question : ' how can the helmet of horror be located inside one of its own parts ? ' answer : The helmet of horror fractionates a one thing that is , into the multitude that are not . but since the helmet of horror is in no way the one thing that is , it is also one of the multitude of things that are not and the things that are not may enter into every possible conceivable and inconceivable kind of relationship, since these relationships do not in any case exist anywhere except in the helmet of horror , which doesn't actually exist itself . Question : does that mean that inside the helmet there is another helmet and in the other helmet there is a third one and so on to infinity in both directions ? ' let me know if i was dumb for not understanding a single bit of this said dear helmet of horror that belongs to this Theseus or this so-called Minotaurs.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Okay, so this book makes you work hard. Instead of just describing the plight of people stuck in a confusing and challenging thought experiment of co-existing contradictory truth states and partial revelations, Pelevin actually makes you experience this yourself. I underestimated the mental energy required for this book - I snuggled into bed late at night, realising it was written as a series of online discussion threads, thinking it would be nice, wind-down reading. Instead, I found Okay, so this book makes you work hard. Instead of just describing the plight of people stuck in a confusing and challenging thought experiment of co-existing contradictory truth states and partial revelations, Pelevin actually makes you experience this yourself. I underestimated the mental energy required for this book - I snuggled into bed late at night, realising it was written as a series of online discussion threads, thinking it would be nice, wind-down reading. Instead, I found I had to stay awake, and in picking the book up again the next night, backtrack in order to really know where I was. Some parts - such as the description of the helmet itself - I'm still working out. And this is a good thing. I'm a relatively intelligent person who already knows a fair bit about myth, psychology and philosophy (and I'm currently making my way through the Canongate myth series) - but this book gave me a challenge. At times the challenge was enough to make me want to put it down and walk away. At other times, I could see the workings - especially playing around with the text itself, in the screen names and "censored" parts - this worked surprisingly well given the book has been translated. I think I need to come back to the book again to see if I can get a better understanding - and it's not the kind of book that leaves a definitive, singular explanation of what exactly is going on. This might just be a lazy way to end the story - or it could serve the purpose of making people like us get on discussion boards and talk it through - which is ideally the function of myth.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    Canongate Myths series. Ugh. So much more could have been done with this book - it's structured like a chat room, but for no discernable reason other than to make the story take place in a "virtual" world. You would think that the nature of hypertext would lend great things to the narrative, but it's completely linear. The whole thing reads like a high school freshman's version of a Socratic dialogue. Allegedly, A.S. Byatt, Chinua Achebe and Donna Tartt have or will have books in this Canongate Myths series. Ugh. So much more could have been done with this book - it's structured like a chat room, but for no discernable reason other than to make the story take place in a "virtual" world. You would think that the nature of hypertext would lend great things to the narrative, but it's completely linear. The whole thing reads like a high school freshman's version of a Socratic dialogue. Allegedly, A.S. Byatt, Chinua Achebe and Donna Tartt have or will have books in this series, but it's difficult to find the entire thing in the library catalog since the Library of Congress eliminiated Series Control.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Despite the title, which sounds to me like a bad horror/fantasy novel, this is a book about ideas, not people. It is about myth, metaphor, epistemology, wordplay, reality, nothingness, and mind. It's a one act play performed in an Internet chat-room, a trick, a ritual, an incantation, a meditation. It is about T versus S. It is the myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. verdict: Victor Pelevin is a mad genius, and I will search for more works by him.

  14. 4 out of 5

    S.j. Hirons

    Interesting up to a point.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In the myth of Theseus, the king of Crete, Minos, commands his captive invetor, Daedalus, to build a maze so intricate that nobody could escape from it without help. In this maze he places the Minotaur, a man-bull hybrid who eats people. (The minotaur is also, I think, the king's wife's son. By a bull. Yep, we're definitely in a Greek myth here). Every year, Minos demands tribute from lesser kings (Theseus's father Aegeus among them) in the form of a shipload of treasure and seven youths and sev In the myth of Theseus, the king of Crete, Minos, commands his captive invetor, Daedalus, to build a maze so intricate that nobody could escape from it without help. In this maze he places the Minotaur, a man-bull hybrid who eats people. (The minotaur is also, I think, the king's wife's son. By a bull. Yep, we're definitely in a Greek myth here). Every year, Minos demands tribute from lesser kings (Theseus's father Aegeus among them) in the form of a shipload of treasure and seven youths and seven maidens, chosen by lot, to go into the maze to be eaten by the Minotaur. One year, Theseus volunteers to take the place of one of the youths, meets Minos's daughter Ariadne, who falls in love with him and agrees to help him by giving him a ball of string he can use to thread his way through the maze. He succeeds in killing the Minotaur and escaping the maze, but his father believes he has died and kills himself even as Theseus is on his way back. Very few of these details are conserved in Victor Pelevin's hilarious, thought-provoking and ultimately baffling retelling of the story. We meet eight characters: Ariadne, and seven pseudonymous strangers who find themselves in different hotel rooms sitting at computers. They are all confused as to where they are and how they got there, and find their chat (over some kind of in-house intranet) is being filtered to prevent the exchange of concrete, real-world facts (names, places of origin, addresses, etc.) and also swear words. The form of the novel is the online dialogue between these eight characters, replying to the single message posted on the sole online forum they can access (as I mentioned, they're not on the Internet, but an intranet): I shall construct a labyrinth in which I can lose myself, together with anyone who tries to find me - who said this and about what? Ariadne, who posted the message, acts as a sort of guide through the "labyrinth" that seems to be both physical (the hotel) and psychological. The characters explore their literal and figurative environments in different ways: a know-it-all type named "Monstradamus" uses his academic knowledge to parse the hidden symbolic and etymological meanings of the few clues that are present; "Romeo" and "Isolde" jointly decide to leave their rooms and try to find each other, periodically reporting to the group what they find; "Nutscracker" uses his background as a computer programmer to try to understand what he comes to believe is the virtual reality they've entered; "Sartrik" gets drunk and disparages everyone else's suggestions; Ariadne, who seems to be a lucid dreamer, dreams about meeting a dwarf who explains the labyrinth and the Minotaur to her; and "UGLI 666" sees religious symbolism in everything around her, and decides that her imprisonment is a penance for her sins, which she must endure before finally meeting God. Nobody gets very far in their attempt to make sense of the maze and identify Theseus and the Minotaur. (Monstradamus, interestingly enough, is named as both). Ariadne dreams of a "helmet of horror," which her diminutive guide tells her represents the Minotaur's mind: a machine that generates past, present and future from the immediate past. (The "stream of impressions", which come from both outside the helmet of horror and within its "horns of plenty", is diffracted through the "separator labyrinth" and changed into "bubbles of hope," which are enriched by memories stored in the horns of plenty --- Monstradamus is the first to discover that this process does not actually transform anything, since the stream of impressions and the contents of the horns of plenty are all memories --- past --- so logically nothing would seem able to enter the helmet of horror at all). Much time is spent discussing and speculating on the nature of the helmet of horror, and the implication of Ariadne's dream that they are all trapped inside a virtual reality, perhaps all wearing helmets of horror that filter and shape their perceptions. I did not really understand the ending, except in the most abstract sense. What happens is that each character hears a loud knocking on their doors, and the doors are broken down and a stranger enters their rooms, his speech appearing on their screens under the name of "Theseus." He believes them all to be minotaurs, and they all shout "MOO!" at him. (Several times near the end, the characters all speak a nonsensical phrase in unison; it seemed to me like something was taking possession of them all when it happened, since it did not flow out of their conversation and clearly perturbed them). My understanding, at the end, was that the story started over again, with the characters now assigning themselves the role of Minotaurs (as opposed to Athenian youths and maidens). Thus the story is not a story, but a single arc of a(n endlessly recursive) circle. Other reviewers have said that this book is not worth the effort it takes to understand what the heck is going on in it. I don't agree --- for all its inscrutability, the story reads amazingly quickly. (I finished it in maybe two or three hours). It reads quickly, the ideas flow well enough, and the dialogue (except for the occasional trippy descriptive passage --- lay off the acid, okay Ariadne? --- or random outburst) is laugh-out-loud funny. Pelevin's introduction, "Mythcellaneous," a discussion of what myth is, and of the modern mythology of progress (in a self-consciously nonlinear narrative; I C wut u did there, Pelevin!) is also worth reading; it's lucid, interesting and witty in a more subdued way than the wacky, sometimes-profane dialogue. Skip it if you hate authors who play tricks on their readers and characters; if you like a challenge, or even don't mind one, check it out. It's like "Neuromancer" meets "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ashen

    I got this book as present from a Russian blogger friend. Not sure I would have picked it from a shelf. Some reviewers report they swallowed the text quickly, like in two hours ... Huh. I took little bites over several weeks, alternating the read with several other books I dip into before bedtime. Characters emerge during dialogues reflecting back to them their discourse, which revolves round aimlessly seeking explanations, sharing hallucinations and possible ways out of the labyrinth, a pun on I got this book as present from a Russian blogger friend. Not sure I would have picked it from a shelf. Some reviewers report they swallowed the text quickly, like in two hours ... Huh. I took little bites over several weeks, alternating the read with several other books I dip into before bedtime. Characters emerge during dialogues reflecting back to them their discourse, which revolves round aimlessly seeking explanations, sharing hallucinations and possible ways out of the labyrinth, a pun on what virtual reality can feel like at times, a soul-sucking spider. And a truth, since we are stuck in the projected simulation of a collective intranet. In small doses I did enjoy the word plays and clever takes on philosophers the characters meet. Some have advice. Nutcracker cracked me up a few times. He relates a proposal to get out ... It all came down to how many times to turn right and how many times to turn left, and in which order. Everyone wanted to do it his own way... One can of course stop thinking of a way out and wake up. But that's just between the lines. The end merely turns to another fatalistic round.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Like listening to a conversation among strangers: titillating, but not exactly enduring. Victor Pelevin rewrites and updates the myth of Theseus and the minotaur for the information age. The story is told as a long conversation among a number of characters on an internet chat room: Organizm(-:, Romeo-y-Cohiba, Nutscracker, Monstradamus, IsoldA, UGLI 666, and Sartrik. Each of the characters, in turn, reports that they have awoken is a room, dressed in ancient Greek clothing, not sure o Like listening to a conversation among strangers: titillating, but not exactly enduring. Victor Pelevin rewrites and updates the myth of Theseus and the minotaur for the information age. The story is told as a long conversation among a number of characters on an internet chat room: Organizm(-:, Romeo-y-Cohiba, Nutscracker, Monstradamus, IsoldA, UGLI 666, and Sartrik. Each of the characters, in turn, reports that they have awoken is a room, dressed in ancient Greek clothing, not sure of where they were or how they got there. They communicate this on an (ahem) thread initiated by Ariadne. They subsequently spend time interpreting a series of dreams that Ariadne reports—these are about the so-called Helmet of Horror, which seems to be the head of a minotaur. The conversation then expands to discuss virtual reality. The various participants each have their own characteristics—Nutscracker is the VR expert, Monstradamus the know-it-all, UGLI 666 a fundamentalist Christian and so on. They report that there rooms open on different labyrinths, these in accord with each person’s qualities: Nutscracker’s is a series of videos of people auditioning for the role of minotaur and Theseus; Monstradmus’s is a dead end, with a gun that has a single bullet; UGLI 666’s is a church with a medieval labyrinth. Ariadne, who reports her dream—her labyrinth is another bedroom, with a very soft bed and sleeping pills. These various discussions circle around the question of what does the labyrinth mean, what plays the role of the minotaur, when will Theseus come and see them, and who are the so-called monitors that censor the messages—cutting out curse words, hiding identifying details. Eventually, at the end—this cannot really be a spoiler, since we’re not reading Becket—Theseus does arrive, and the book becomes increasingly difficult to parse: it’s a puzzle-book, and to understand the end one has to understand the puzzle. That’s Pelevin’s big point, too: we all have to understand our historical situation. We, as readers, are also caught in a labyrinth. He opens the book with a quote from Borges: “No one realised that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same.” So, I should put down how I understand this book to work. I will say, upfront, I generally do not like puzzle books of this sort (“The Sound and the Fury” is the least satisfying of Faulkner’s works, in my opinion, for this reason), and I didn’t make a study of Pelevin’s novel: I read it once. So I am certain that I got some details wrong. But I think I understood the big picture. The book is rooted in Buddhist notions of mind. That’s what the Helmet of Horror is, an extended tweak on Buddhist psychology. Humans are completely at the mercy of their perceptions, he is saying—we all wear the Helmet of Horror ourselves, trapped in it and its infinite generation of the moment ‘now’ from the elements of the past. There are various ways to gain access to its workings—one of these is through dreams and self-introspection—and it should be understood as the same kind of thing as virtual reality: the same coding that goes into VR is at work in constructing our own perceptions. In addition to perceptions, our thoughts are structured by the discourse into which we are born, and given to us by the culture in which we are raised. This is the ground, and we are the minotaur. We just don’t usually recognize it, thinking, instead, we are Theseus. But we wear the helmet; and when we look in the mirror, we see the minotaur, but think it’s someone else. The key figures here are the two who show up the least, Sartrik (that is, little Sartre) and Theseus (also spelled Thezeus). It is important that the letter T is simultaneously near the center of the word Minotaur—its heart, so to speak—and isomorphic with a cross. T—Theseus, the Zeus—is the savior. It can be Jesus, as UGLI 666 notes, but need not be: it’s anything that pushes us out of the bounds of regimented discourse and to new ways of understanding the world. (Even as these new ways just create new discourses themselves, which also serve to hide the labyrinth, the minotaur, and Theseus.) Sartrik is the one who recognizes what is really going on, and cogently explains that everyone wears a Helmet of Horror. He’s also a drunk (his labyrinth is a fridge full of alcohol), presumably because of his knowledge. But the group doesn’t fully understand what Sartrik is trying to tell them; only when Theseus arrives and forces a change does the matter become clear—although the text is anything but. Theseus forces the minotaur to recognize itself, to be born, and also to die—another Buddhist image of infinite cycles. The first letter of the character names spell out—and at the time of Theseus’s arrival, they are put in the order to spell out—Minotaur. And what do they say? Moo. In an introduction, Pelevin says that the Minotaur does not like the word—presumably because it is then forced to recognize its own nature: as part bovine, or, in this case, as part virtual reality—MOO here referring to the text-based virtual games that were present at the beginning of the internet. (These are still sometimes called MOOs.) But then Theseus leaves, and we get the momentary return—again spelled out by the letters of the names—of the Minotaur’s father, Minos. Following that—again, the acrostic is the clue (or should I say clew?)—comes a new thing, with Sartrik replacing Theseus. We are meant to know that the new thing is really old, though—the characters write Pre Pasiphaë—meaning, before the Minotaur’s mother—and reconfigure themselves as the Minosaur, a dragon, a dinosaur. And at its center is Sartrik, a drunk existentialist, pushing towards a new discourse, a new set of moderators. So they have recognized their own situation, but nothing’s changed, ultimately. After all, they all just remain people known only by their nyms, avatars, and what they write to each other: each remains in the labyrinth of his or her own prison. And so are we. Which is all well and good, though it takes a lot of work to get here, and there were certainly some large chunks of exposition I skimmed. Overall, it was a good read—that’s what I meant when I compared it to listening in on someone’s conversation. Even the mundane can seem pretty interesting when you’re eavesdropping. I read the book through pretty quickly, swept up by the conversation. In the end, though, I’m not sure where it gets us? We’re all trapped by our own perceptions of reality? Yeah, fair enough. The only hint at freedom comes in recognizing our situation—though we cannot necessarily change it. Ok, heard that one, too. In the introduction, Pelevin shows that he understands the rugged, contradictory demands of myth, how they are both supposed to tough on the central themes of human existence but also supposed to be untrue. And they might also be the codes by which we live—what he calls, using computer lingo, the shell code. I would have liked to hear him develop his ideas in an essay. Because I don’t think what he did in the book works as well. The threaded nature of it—I get the temptation, when discussing Ariadne, to use a computer thread. And there are echoes of philosophical discourses, from Plato through Galileo, a traditional form, if one not used to much effect anymore. But the discursive nature of the myth also drains it of its power, its weight. And it dates it—the reference to there being no additional Star Wars stories after the death of Darth Vader is just wrong, now, and I wonder for how long the central metaphor of a chatroom will even be understood; in 2006, when this was published in English, it might have looked timely; now it looks hoary, if not archaic. Which is the other part of what I was trying to get at when I compared this to eavesdropping on strangers. It was fun to listen, and I enjoyed—as much as I could—piecing together the little pieces into a bigger vision of what’s going on (though I realized to get an even more complete idea would require more of a time investment). It’s all very ingenious. Pelevin is smart, knows lots of things, arranged them in a cover way that was also readable—and yet, it seems, ultimately, forgettable, too. Which is the last thing you’d want from a myth.

  18. 5 out of 5

    TinHouseBooks

    Molly Dickinson (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): Imagine waking up in a room that might be a hotel room and might be a prison cell. There’s an impenetrable metal door, and a computer built into the wall that allows the only form of communication with the other inhabitants/prisoners: a chat room forum. Oh, and you have no memory of how you got there. Disoriented yet? That’s how we meet the characters of Victor Pelevin’s The Helmet of Horror, a stunning re-imagining of the classic myth of T Molly Dickinson (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): Imagine waking up in a room that might be a hotel room and might be a prison cell. There’s an impenetrable metal door, and a computer built into the wall that allows the only form of communication with the other inhabitants/prisoners: a chat room forum. Oh, and you have no memory of how you got there. Disoriented yet? That’s how we meet the characters of Victor Pelevin’s The Helmet of Horror, a stunning re-imagining of the classic myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Pelevin invites us into this surreal chat room forum, where the odd array of characters try to make sense of their foreign circumstances and engage in a dialogue about the cosmos, the divine, and the absolute weirdness of their situation. This is an absolute must read: it is fascinatingly formatted, filled with diverse and comical characters, and a genius re-crafting of a familiar myth.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jacquelyn

    Only "The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur" in the sense that it's framed by the themes of that myth; "A Philosophical Discourse of the Labyrinth and Reality" would have been a better title, and then I would have been expecting this story instead of a fresh take on the mythology I know. There's also something in the tone, something that says "Look how clever I am by writing this!", that I just don't like. When the author's ego gets involved, I tend to dismiss everything they've said. That being Only "The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur" in the sense that it's framed by the themes of that myth; "A Philosophical Discourse of the Labyrinth and Reality" would have been a better title, and then I would have been expecting this story instead of a fresh take on the mythology I know. There's also something in the tone, something that says "Look how clever I am by writing this!", that I just don't like. When the author's ego gets involved, I tend to dismiss everything they've said. That being said, parts of it were clever, and parts of it were tedious in their lack of originality. I think the clever presentation might have been intended to gloss over the arguments you may have heard in other philosophies, but it just didn't work for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Not knowing the original myth in detail, there were times when my mind struggled to understand what and why was being implied by everything that was said by the characters in the modern retelling and in the end the book probably left me with more questions than answers. But this was probably the reason why the book drew me in so much I was not able to put it down until I had read it all. The style in which the book is written - as a chat room - is quite unique and at the same time mun Not knowing the original myth in detail, there were times when my mind struggled to understand what and why was being implied by everything that was said by the characters in the modern retelling and in the end the book probably left me with more questions than answers. But this was probably the reason why the book drew me in so much I was not able to put it down until I had read it all. The style in which the book is written - as a chat room - is quite unique and at the same time mundane in this world of global communication.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lura

    This is a very philsophical and abstract retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur. It oozes existentialism; the feel was exactly the same for me as Sartre's No Exit. It's more of a thought exercise than a story, and some passages are difficult to process...I think it would've been an arduous read without some background in philosophy. But if philosophy is your thing, then there are some very clever little twists in here, and the concept is fantastic. I got a huge kick out of the tale itself as a chat ro This is a very philsophical and abstract retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur. It oozes existentialism; the feel was exactly the same for me as Sartre's No Exit. It's more of a thought exercise than a story, and some passages are difficult to process...I think it would've been an arduous read without some background in philosophy. But if philosophy is your thing, then there are some very clever little twists in here, and the concept is fantastic. I got a huge kick out of the tale itself as a chat room "thread".

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eugene

    The ideas somewhat around those found in Carlos Castaneda books, as well as other book of the same author: AmpirV. Our world, our reality, and our lives are in some sort of simulation. The do exist only inside our minds. But our mind is capable of creating any other sense of reality, and the reality itself. ... This book is sort of preface for AmpirV. You will find here mention of discourse, glamor, and the emptiness of our artificial imaginary world.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna Marie

    One of the best metafiction novels I've ever read. None of it ever "happened" (arguabley); or at least, you can never prove it beyond the words on the pages (and even those are suspect). This is especially compelling for anyone who has studied theories in philosophy or sociology, and has knowledge on literature, history, and myths and legends.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I loved this book for the first half, then found my interest in the device (people trapped in various rooms consulting by computer) flagging. I tend to like less device-ridden fiction, something that appeals more to my emotions than my relish of formal play. The Beckettian/Sartrean element palled after a while.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    4.5 stars. I'm not a philosopher, and I don't remember everything from the classes I took in college, but it did remind me of a modern-day (albeit cast with a horror-survival sheen) take on Sartre's No Exit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    A sly discourse on the many meanings of the Minotaur; an allegory, a true look at ourselves, maybe even an imposition from an outside source. Not a good read though, a good reading of the Minotaur myth with comments from others would be more comprehensive, and easier than a chat room weirdfest

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brad Dillon

    Weird....odd...just a tad bleak...not like any other book I have ever read. If you are expecting the same ol' same ol' in story telling, avoid this book. If you are looking for something intriguing but extremely different, this is the book for you.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Clara De Los Santos

    One of my favorite books. Exciting, unpredictable, hilarious, smart, modern and historical at the same time. Weird. Wonderful!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zhgr

    Your optional Pelevin. Nice, but certainly not esseintial one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Hobson

    An interesting and inventive book by Russian writer Victor Pelevin. He takes the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and brings it bang up to date. Instead of a labyrinth we are caught within an internet chat room. A number of people have awoken to find themselves inprisioned in similar small room with locked bronze doors and their only means of communication a screen and keyboard. Some form of moderator is checking their entries to prevent them giving details of who they are or where An interesting and inventive book by Russian writer Victor Pelevin. He takes the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and brings it bang up to date. Instead of a labyrinth we are caught within an internet chat room. A number of people have awoken to find themselves inprisioned in similar small room with locked bronze doors and their only means of communication a screen and keyboard. Some form of moderator is checking their entries to prevent them giving details of who they are or where they are from. Instead they are all given names such as Monstradamus, UGLI666, and Organizm. In what appear more wires crossed than star crossed lovers, IsoldA and Romeo take a shine to one another. Gradually we explore their surroundings and are fed dream sequences by a character called Ariadne, almost the only character present who is named after the original myth. The character piece together information and try to understand if one of them is actually the Minotaur or if Theseus is present, as he is the person who can rescue them from the labyrinth. Along the way we encounter all sorts of strange stories and later additions to the myth of the labyrinth, such as the designs in mediaeval cathedrals. An unsettling tale that plays and haunts the imagination.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.