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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Reise nach Kalino

Radek Knapp

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To purchase Reise nach Kalino

Title: Reise nach Kalino
Author: Radek Knapp
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012
Length: 255 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Reise nach Kalino - Deutschland
  • Reise nach Kalino has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : decent if just a bit too tepid mix of P.I. story and science fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Die Welt . 27/10/2012 Joachim Feldmann

  From the Reviews:
  • "Radek Knapps Reise nach Kalino ist ein munterer Genremix. Stanislaw Lem trifft Raymond Chandler, wobei Julius Werkazy als Detektiv in Schnürlsamthosen die ironische Variante des Schnüfflerklischees gibt. Dabei geht es um nichts Geringeres als die Rettung der Welt, wie wir sie kennen. Aber keine Sorge: Die Menschen dürfen ihre Schwächen auch weiterhin pflegen. Was im gutsitzenden Gewand des Detektivromans daherkommt, entpuppt sich als sehr unterhaltsame Satire." - Joachim Feldmann, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Reise nach Kalino begins much like your usual washed-out-P.I. tale, Julius Werkazy looking over his unpaid bills in his very quiet offices. A telephone call sets the expected into motion: he gets a case -- and an extraordinary one at that. The call is from someone whose name even he recognizes, F.Osmos, the founder of a place called Kalino, a world unto itself that for decades has basically been walled off from the rest of the world, so much so that almost nothing is known about it. For Osmos to have approached an outsider means something pretty dramatic happened there.
       Werkazy plays coy and doesn't leap at the opportunity, but of course it's too much to pass up -- not only the opportunity to visit Kalino, which many would pay a fortune to be able to, but also simply to have another paying gig. Very well-paying, at that.
       Werkazy has a partner, the technically adept Bruno, and Bruno manages to cobble together a device that will hopefully allow Werkazy to remain in contact with the outside world -- communications to and from Kalino are basically impossible by normal means -- but once inside the P.I. is pretty much on his own. Werkazy makes his way to Kalino, and meets its famous founder. Osmos explains his dilemma: there's been a death in Kalino -- the first, ever. And not only that, but it was clearly murder. The victim was a scientist named Buschart; he was an outsider who had only been hired to work in Kalino a few years earlier.
       Kalino has over two thousand natives -- Kalinians -- while only a handful of so-called 'Papiergesichte' ('paper-faces'), outsiders like Werkazy, live among them, so-called by the Kalinians because of the wrinkles on their faces. One of the things Osmos has been able to do in his idyll is more or less do away with aging and death: Kalinians stay ever-young and not only have no fear but not even any awareness of mortality: death is an unknown to them -- which is one reason why the murder that happened is so troubling to Osmos: if the Kalinians learnt of it, it would completely upset their (new-)world order. It also points the finger at one of the few 'paper-faces', since murder is literally inconceivable to Kalinians.
       The Kalinians' eternal youth is made possible by what they consume, as it's in their nutrition that Osmos has found the key to more or less eternal life: the unappetizing-looking (to Werkazy) processed food -- removing all harmful contaminants -- that makes up their nutrition keeps them healthy and young. Meanwhile, however, food that regular humans consume is inedible to them -- much as Kalinian food is basically inedible by outsiders. And the dead man was working in nutritional research .....
       Kalino is presented as an island unto its own. Osmos transformed it -- and the locals, regular human beings like anyone else some thirty-odd years ago when he arrived -- into a kind of utopia. The exact nature of what happened is only eventually revealed, but by the time Werkazy arrives it's clear that the Kalinians are essentially a biologically different species -- near-identical to humans, but with a few fundamental differences -- and also very much a different culture. So, for example, Kalinians' hive-like domiciles don't have windows. Kalino is also technologically quite advanced -- including with very smart cars.
       As Werkazy also soon notes, it's somewhat of a police-state, tightly controlled and with founder Osmos looked up to like a cult-leader. Kalinians finds 'paper-faces' very unsettling and can't really mix with them (though the victim was married to one -- though as Werkazy learns, that wasn't a particularly successful union) -- making Werkazy's research difficult, too: he can't readily mix with them, and their very different perception of the world makes it rather difficult for him to get straightforward answers from those he does have exchanges with.
       In addition to the murder-mystery there's also the question as to why, of all private investigators, Werkazy was selected for this mission. As it turns out, he was basically summoned by the murderer: a newspaper clipping from a case that involved Werkazy, eleven years earlier, was found apparently left behind by thge murderer at the scene. Unsurprisingly, there turns out to be a link between the two cases .....
       The way Werkazy makes his way through Kalino, and to the root of the mystery, is reasonably entertainingly presented. Knapp leaves aside much of the technical detail, not worried too much about making the Kalinian experiment a plausible alter-reality -- parts of it, from how it is cut off from the rest of the world to some of the biological changes (and the Kalinians' own limited awareness of many things, including the past and the rest of the world) is quite unrealistic, by any measure, but in a way Knapp's vagueness serves the story quite well: readers more or less just have to take it all as a given.
       The resolution is also reasonably satisfying. Unsurprisingly, a great deal is not as it initially seems. Not only is there a much darker side to the Kalino-project, but the murder itself isn't quite what it first appears to be. Knapp throws in some action and suspense, with Werkazy's fate in the balance until the very end (though there's no surprise to the eventual outcome, of course).
       Aside from semi-futuristic science fiction story and P.I. mystery, Reise nach Kalino is also clearly satire, presenting a contemporary would-be utopia that, of course, is in reality anything but. The case Werkazy is pulled into is then also not just a simple murder case but one that involves the fate of both this community -- and, as it turns out, possibly humanity itself.
       It's all reasonably well done, puttering along enjoyably enough as a mystery in an unusual setting, but it's also all just a bit too tepid. Kalino is a largest-scale experiment -- even if only involving some two thousand odd souls for the time being -- and with Osmos' ambitions a more Michael Crichton-like over-the-top (and densely technical) approach would probably work better than Knapp's more casual (and too often almost make-it-up-along-the-way-seeming) one.
       Reise nach Kalino is perfectly fine as small-scale thriller, with a nicely humorous touch, but with its big-scale ideas does feel rather underbaked.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 April 2019

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Reise nach Kalino: Reviews: Other books by Radek Knapp under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Radek Knapp was born in Warsaw in 1964 and has lived in Austria since 1976.

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© 2019-2022 the complete review

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