Russia’s history — revolution, ruthless rulers, constant suffering — is full of drama. The clever, conceptual Day of the Oprichnik imagines a combination of all these sorts of struggles, happening all at once. In a distant future, Russia is ruled by Stalinist czars. The country is medieval in its religious devotion, barbaric politics and elaborate executions. Day of the Oprichnik is told through the eyes of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga, one of an elite band of government agents, the Oprichnina. If you fall out of favor with the state, the Oprichniks will kill you, and there is no escape. It’s a gripping story with lots of potential, but lacks realism in its anachronisms; Vladimir Sorokin has clearly set out to scandalize, and the book is worth reading if you’re a fan of transgressive fiction. But for a country where swearing is corporally punished and fairy tales are considered satanic, the Oprichniks indulge in some peculiar vices.