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The Sakhalin Island


An exquisite poetic homage to Anton Checkov's Sakhalin Island travel notes in the form reaching out to “monumental, and monumentally mad” (The Guardian) apocalyptic masterpieces, Strugatskys’ Hard To Be a God and The Road by Cormac McCarthy – this deadly typhoon of a novel sweeps the reader, aghast and mesmerized, into the epicentre of the world of squalor, fear and death.

The North Korea hit first, the United States did not remain indebted – so the nuclear war broke. After a few months exchange of atomic explosions the civilization was ruined, the globe burnt down into a devastated wasteland, those who survived in the war have been done away by a rapidly spreading, severe disease, named MOB (a mobile rabies) that turns humans into living zombies in seconds.


By miracle, Japan has survived. This is the last home of civilization – there are scarce but still sufficient uncontaminated food and water resources, science, industry and even art.


The island of Sakhalin serves as a bifurcation zone between Japan and the devastated Euro-Asia, an unthinkable hell of the MOB-infected continent. MOB-infected species can only be stopped by water – this is why Sakhalin and Japan remain uninfected.


Sakhalin is a tiny and terribly overpopulated territory, inhabited by millions of Chinese, and underprivileged Koreans and Americans who continue to pay for the sins of the fathers for unleashing the Big War. Sakhalin is the territory for nightmarish prisons and labor camps, a purgatory where human life is of no value (corpses are more valuable than living beings – they can serve as firewood or melted to a soap). Horrible living and unthinkable labor conditions result in severe moral degradation, when “negroes lynching” becomes the widely spread recreation, slavery, heavy physical and sexual abuse, or the excision of bodily parts of an albino child is a routine.      


Lilac, a strikingly beautiful blue-eyed daughter of a Russian mother and a high-rank Japanese father, a PhD student of an applied futurology science, receives a field assignment: to study the current conditions in prisons and labour camps and a general social and economic situation on the island. Her professor believes that Sakhalin in its extreme critical condition may be the territory where future is shaped in the present. On arrival to the island Lilac gets a hand, a professional killer from the local privileged sect named “chained to a hook”. Artyom will accompany and protect Lilac on her journey. Their investigation tour through the island’s hell is dangerous as such, but one day a massive earthquake strikes. Prisons get ruined, setting free their hard-core criminals craving for vengeance, the island’s population takes off for the South in a desperate attempt to reach the ports, to get on board ships for Japan. The earthquake has another consequence, far more dangerous than hard-core criminals off the leash or millions of desperate people competing for an unlikely escape – the island is not separated by water from the continent any longer, and the herds of MOB-infected zombies instantly spread over Sakhalin. Lilac and her companion are on the vertiginous run from the catastrophe, bandits and the death itself. And it is not only their own lives that are at stake; they strive to save a badly damaged albino child they discovered along the way.   


Lilac’s narrative starts as an elegant and crystal clear story of a journey, a poetic homage to Anton Checkov’s travel notes, first transforms into a compassionate observation of man’s severe moral and physical degradation, switching to the most harrowing survival post-apocalyptic stories you read in years. Readers are forced to keep turning the pages, as if lives of the characters would depend on them.


The world that Verkin has brilliantly pictured offers no escape and no hope, its inhabitants are lost and abandoned, degrading to extreme (almost inhuman) forms – yet the author writes about them with profound tenderness and compassion. The rotten world of the Sakhalin Island has no escape and no future, but the narrator’s (as well as the author’s) willingness to see the future is illuminating. If you are not devoid of compassion, you will inevitably catch your self crying, if not sobbing, in the end of the novel, but be reassured – these will be purifying tears of redemption.

A powerful, harrowing, and gripping story that goes far beyond the traditions of post-apocalyptical genre. 

Eduard Verkin inflicts both anguish and delight on his readers. Despite depicting murders, human torture, stories of the death of human civilization, and even the picture of a main character collecting corpses for use as fuel, it grabs and wins over the reader. This must be the result of the author’s true gift. 

— Izvestia 

This is not a sci-fi action thriller, it’s a Bible of the New Time.

Book details

Novel, post-apocalypse

Eksmo, 2018

480 pp

Rights sold

  • All rights available

Literary awards

  • Longlisted for the NOS (New Literature Award) 2018

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