In the first novel, Platon's Tunda, the American narrator and his friend, Valera, a sharp-tongued Jewish drifter from Moscow, search out the traces of shamanism in the arctic republic of Yakutiia. But the shamans have died off, and the native reindeer herders have migrated to capital Yakutsk, a gritty, permafrosted sprawl of shabby wooden huts and Soviet brutalism. Once they arrive, the duo dives into the city's hard drinking core of shamanic revivalists - folklorists, dancers and heavy metal trancers. On the side, the narrator inches forward with a biography of one Platon Oyunski, the author of a Bolshevik-era epic poem entitled, The Red Shaman. Bear bile traders, corrupt Francophile functionaries, and aspiring fashion models from the local Ministry of Culture help lighten the mood.
The second novel, Diary of a Cowboy Outfit, honors the theme of greed in its latest incarnation, a Mercedes dealership in the oil and gas boomtown of Tyumen, West Siberia. Modestly titled the Siberian World Company, the firm is run by Olaf, a Norwegian arms trader who lives far beyond his means, spouts flaky management jargon, and can’t control his secretive local partner, Kolya, a former biathlete now dabbling in the dangerous jet fuel trade. Troubled by Kolya’s increasingly independent initiatives, Olaf hires the narrator - with a freshly minted Oxford PhD on Hegel and no business training - to “build synergies” between the disconnected parts of the firm. The descent that follows into Geneva junkets, dump truck marketing, provincial bohemia, and $1000 nights on the town drives the story toward an unsavory climax, leaving a vivid and disturbing portrait of post-Soviet frontier capitalism.