• The Half Life of Valery K

  • By: Natasha Pulley
  • Narrated by: Jot Davies
  • Length: 12 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley, read by Jot Davies.

From the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and The Kingdoms, an epic Cold War novel set in a mysterious town in Soviet Russia.

In 1963, in a Siberian prison, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life so he won’t go insane. But one day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps him from the frozen camp to a mysterious unnamed city. It houses a set of nuclear reactors, and surrounding it is a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.

In City 40, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises. Why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?

Based on real events in a surreal Soviet city, and told with bestselling author Natasha Pulley’s inimitable style, The Half Life of Valery K is a sweeping new adventure for fans of Stuart Turton and Sarah Gailey.

©2022 Natasha Pulley (P)2022 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

Critic Reviews

"Provocative, unsettling...Pulley, extrapolating out from the records of a historic Soviet research center, raises questions about scientific experimentation and the ways in which it can be manipulated for less than honorable purposes. Her dark humor, which turns on the blind faith given to Soviet authority figures despite their outlandish claims, combines with complex characters and a clear understanding of radiation science to yield an explosive blend. The chilling result feels all too plausible." (Publishers Weekly)

"Pulley adds to her impressive oeuvre with another exquisite novel. Many of the author’s trademarks are on display here: a finely-drawn period setting, a vein of dark humor, a plot blending historical fact and fiction, and a protagonist seeking to do the right thing in the face of a brutal political machine. An illuminating and immersive historical tale." (Vaseem Khan, author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra)

What listeners say about The Half Life of Valery K

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Excellent book, great characters

Natasha Pulley has written another fantastic book, and this is different than her others. This is historical fiction without elements like time travel such as she has in "The Kingdoms", also an excellent book. This story mostly takes place in Russia. Valery K has been brought from a gulag with its forced labor, to a research facility in a manufactured city where he is being brought by a former professor because he is a scientist.

The facility is researching radiation's effects on people, but Valery K realizes something is wrong and things are worse than most people there know. There is a lot of denial and deception. It is typical Cold War crap. There is interesting science in this book as well. I actually learned some things.

I'm not going to give spoilers. I love this book and have loved all of Natasha Pulley's books. She is one of the few authors that I'm willing to pre-order anything she writes. The narration is excellent. Can I give this book 6 stars?

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A wonderful storyteller

I love her writing. She's able to describe extremely difficult issues without making one recoil in horror. This is the first of her books I know of that does not involve fantasy. The characters are well drawn and interesting. and she clearly does her research on both technical and cultural issues. Her observations on culture at the end are pointed, and sadly accurate. The narrator was excellent, no stumbles. Highly recommended.

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Fabulous story

A gripping story backdropped against impossible, frightening circumstances and led for us by two charismatic protagonists. Loved it.

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