Book review: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (by Darragh McKeon)

Title: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
Page count: 418 (US edition paperback, not counting the extra bits and pieces at the end)
Rating: 2/5 stars

Spoiler & trigger warnings: I tried my best to avoid any spoilers. Do be warned for mentions of blood, gore, and nuclear disasters. Also, this is not a particularly happy review.


Goodreads blurb:

Russia, 1986. On a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old prodigy plays his piano silently for fear of disturbing the neighbors. In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, hiding her dissident past. In a nearby hospital, a surgeon immerses himself in his work, avoiding his failed marriage.

And in a village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes to a sky of the deepest crimson. Outside, the ears of his neighbor’s cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened.Now their lives will change forever.

An end-of-empire novel charting the collapse of the Soviet Union, All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a gripping and epic love story by a major new talent.

I got this book mostly because I`m interested in nuclear technology and its disasters. On top of that, I recently found a new interest in the Cold War and the USSR`s role in it. This book sounded like a perfect combination of the two, so I bought it as a new year present to myself.

But to be honest? I was very disappointed by it.

Now, first let me talk about some of the good things of this book, because it wasn`t 100% bad.

First up, kudos to the writer for doing in-depth research. At the very least, everything he wrote was utterly believable and realistic. I have no idea if the eyes of the cows near Chernobyl really did bleed, but I`m willing to believe it. It`s also a sign of at least some good writing if I don`t raise an eyebrow in disbelief every other page or so.

Besides that, I think Darragh McKeon has a lot of potential. The book got loads better near the end in terms of writing (or maybe I just finally got used more to the style) and if he keeps writing there might be a book someday that I enjoy more.

Also the cover is really pretty and a big reason why I bought it. Because I`m shallow like that.

Still though, I did not really enjoy this book.

The writing style was kind of weird to me. It felt very choppy and distant with a lot of very short sentences. As such, I could not connect to any character. They all came across as if they were just kind of “meh” about everything that happened. I mean, I get that 1980`s Russia was not a particularly happy place to be, but from what I know of humans, they usually find things to enjoy and to laugh about anyway, no matter the situation. It felt like in this book everyone just blankly goes through everything and everything is miserable and grey and horrible and no one has fun ever.

Speaking of the characters: there was a lot of random POV switching in the middle of chapters, without any warning. A chapter would be in the POV of one of the main characters, they`d be talking to someone else, and the POV would suddenly switch over to that other person and then switch back to the main character without any warning. I had to go back and reread things a couple of times just to keep following what was going on.

Storywise, this is supposed to be an epic love story and an end-of-empire novel, with as focus the disaster in Chernobyl. At least, that’s what I gathered from the synopsis. But in all honesty, the story just kind of kept going as blankly as its characters, just to fizzle out at the end after there is finally a small amount of build-up. Very important things are just not explained or completely left out to begin with, there are random jumps in time, skipping over integral parts in the timeline.

All in all, this was a very unremarkable and forgettable story.

So do I recommend this book to anyone?

Nope. I don`t like NOT recommending something and writing a review like this doesn`t give me much joy, but I want to be honest here and say I do not recommend this book, not to anyone.

Of course, don`t let me stop you from reading it if you want to. My opinion does not have to be your opinion. This book has good ratings on Goodreads and lots of people seem to enjoy it plenty. I was just not one of them.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know down in the comments!

Take care 🙂

(Currently reading: Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley)

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8 Responses to Book review: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (by Darragh McKeon)

  1. thepeachmartini says:

    I am also interested in pretty much ANYTHING related to Chernobyl, so when I read the Goodreads blurb you posted, I got excited…then I remembered your 2/5 star rating 🙂 Still, I may read this with low expectations, just to read it. And, for the record, I think you did a good job with the review!

    Along the same subject matter, there is a series of books written by Orest Stelmach that I’m reading – initially I purchased the first book because a portion of the proceeds was donated to the Chernobyl Children’s Project International (they specialize in providing medical and mental health care to children and young adults who live in regions still struggling with the impact of the Chernobyl accident); after reading the first book, I was drawn into it because it dealt with several areas I find interesting – Russian and Ukrainian culture, Chernobyl, ice hockey, and Russian & Ukrainian corrupt governments/organized crime. Now, the writing isn’t AMAZING, but I like the main character, and I liked it enough to purchase the additional books in the series. The main focus isn’t on any one area of interest, but it has enough of each to keep me reading. (Here is a link to the 1st book – and I think I wrote a review there too…but you might find it interesting if you like the same sort of things I do 🙂 –

    Wow, I have a feeling that was a poorly written comment…I feel like it was a giant run-on sentence! 🙂

    • kojitmal says:

      Who knows, you might like this book! If you`re interested in Chernobyl it *might* work for you, though I do honestly think McKeon downplayed the disaster massively.

      That book you talk about sounds interesting! Is that Nadia supposed to be the daughter of Nikola Tesla? Because that would be both awkward and awesome.

      And don`t worry, I understood it just fine! XD I often get that feel too, that anything I write is either one giant run-on sentence or too much of a collection of random, short sentences. Never the proper inbetween. Oh well.

  2. Thr plot seemed to me interesting and indeed the cover is amazing. I’m sorry that you didn’t like it so much.
    Great review!

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