Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Great Glass Sea

by Josh Weil

“Josh Weil’s The Great Glass Sea is the most unexpected second book by a writer of note to appear in years . . . an absorbing and touching tale . . . Few young writers appreciate landscape, the way it shapes and diminishes people who live off it, quite like Weil . . . an engrossing story of brotherly division.” —John Freeman, Boston Globe

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 496
  • Publication Date June 09, 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2371-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

From celebrated storyteller Josh Weil comes an epic tragedy of brotherly love, a sui generis novel swathed in all the magic of Russian folklore and set against the dystopian backdrop of an all too real alternate present.

Twin brothers Yarik and Dima have been inseparable since childhood. Living on their uncle’s farm after the death of their father, the boys once spent their days helping farmers in collective fields, their nights spellbound by their uncle’s mythic tales. Years later, the two men labor side by side at the Oranzheria, a sea of glass—the largest greenhouse in the world—that sprawls over acres of cropland. Lit by space mirrors orbiting above, it ensnares the denizens of Petroplavilsk in perpetual daylight and constant productivity, leaving the twins with only work in common—stalwart Yarik married with children, oppressed by the burden of responsibility; dreamer Dima living alone with his mother and rooster, wistfully planning the brothers’ return to their uncle’s land.

But an encounter with the Oranzerhia’s billionaire owner changes their lives forever. Dima drifts into a laborless life of bare subsistence while Yarik begins a head-spinning ascent from promotion to promotion until both men become poster boys for opposing ideologies, pawns at the center of conspiracies and deceptions that threaten to destroy not only the lives of those they love but the very love that has bonded the brothers since birth. This is a breathtakingly ambitious novel of love, loss, and light, set amid a bold vision of an alternative present-day Russia.

Tags Literary


“[A] fascinating debut novel . . . The Great Glass Sea is not an alternative history . . . but a fantastical vision inspired by bits and pieces of Russian language history, and culture. It is beautifully baffled by the mysterious Russian soul.” —New York Times Book Review

“Josh Weil’s The Great Glass Sea is the most unexpected second book by a writer of note to appear in years . . . A grand fable . . . an absorbing and touching tale . . . Few young writers appreciate landscape, the way it shapes and diminishes people who live off it, quite like Weil . . . an engrossing story of brotherly division.” — Boston Globe

“Weil’s highly original drama unfolds in a fittingly unique setting . . . The Great Glass Sea showcases a dystopian society on a grand scale. An ambitious and richly imagined debut novel.” —The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Moving and sensitive—evokes the mythic feel of a contemporary classic. There’s pathos and tension . . . breathtaking brilliance. Weil’s greatest gift to the reader: a deep understanding of family, personal loss and the abiding love between siblings.” —Los Angeles Times

“With his brilliant new novel, The Great Glass Sea, Weil maintains this balance beautifully over 474 pages, sweeping the reader along with careful characterization and exuberant language . . . the book has the heartbeat of a fable, and plays out in the rhythms of a story told for generations. The resultant feeling is that of being on someone’s knee while hearing this magnificent tale.” —The Rumpus.com

“Captivating. A kind of sweeping historical fable . . . superbly drawn.” —Associated Press

“Weil conjures up image after image of great beauty and melancholy . . . some of them, like a lone figure skating atop the Oranzheria, have an indelible originality . . . The Great Glass Sea is a work of great ambition and imagination.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Vivid prose and soaring imagination . . . an inventive dystopian tale from a brilliant storyteller about a not-so-far-fetched alternate present, a tale about family and brotherhood that simultaneously brings to light poignant political and philosophical inquiries. It’s a stunningly imagined debut that will dazzle and mesmerize readers as they disappear into its visionary depths and resurface with a new and more profound understanding of fraternal love.” —Bustle, July 2014’s Best Books

“Close to 500 pages, Weil’s novel bends genres, uses Russian folklore, and gives you enough little philosophical nuggets to bite on to fill your July quota for strange, but totally engrossing novels.” —Flavorwire, “10 Must Read Books for July”

“When Weil’s prose and ‘Russian novel’ connect with our contemporary anxieties about the future of labor and value, something magical happens.” —Austin American Statesman

“An ambitious and accomplished debut novel, one that reshapes the world even as it reflects our own reality back to us, now more brightly lit than ever before.” —The Brooklyn Rail

“Thoughtful, elegiac . . . Weil couches this complex tale in prose that is lyrical, funny, sad, and often echoes folk-tale language. An audacious SF what-if . . . it will make you think and wonder. Sometimes it will make you laugh, and by the end, it will reward you.” —Fantasy Literature

“Lyrical prose pulls readers from each paragraph to the next, and is peppered with brilliant and dark imagery as well as colorful Russian folklore, making The Great Glass Sea a must-read for fans of literary fiction.” —Book Page

“Evocative of Russian classics . . . an ambitious analysis of the fallout of that one single moment, how the drive to work and amass impacts our happiness, and conversely how listlessness or a lack of ambition do the same . . . The Great Glass Sea is a joy to reflect on”Josh Weil proves himself a storyteller with the ability to deliver the kind of complex literature (with room for interpretation that lends itself to discussion and debate) in a time where fast, easy and digestible are far more common place.” —Examiner

“If complex literary novels really are done for, Josh Weil must’ve missed the text message. His formidable The Great Glass Sea knits together strands of traditional Slavic folklore and futuristic speculative fiction to create a passionate reflection on technology and personal happiness. Spanning almost 500 pages, the novel poses mind-bending questions about politics, ecology and the ambivalent closeness of siblings . . . Weil pulls off dazzling strokes of storytelling . . . His distinctive voice obliges readers to slow down and swish certain passages around before swallowing . . . Pushing the envelope on literary artistry even further, each chapter begins with a pen-and-ink illustration by the author . . . A genre-bending epic steeped in archetypal stories, The Great Glass Sea, rises above the usual Cain-and-Abel formula by way of sensitive, resourceful craftsmanship.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A genuinely fascinating novel—for its inventiveness, its passionate breadth and vision.” —Richard Ford

“Josh Weil writes away from all the official channels, and yet he writes about exactly where we are now. His vision is sustained by proper instinct and intelligent observation. He is certainly among the most gifted writers of his generation.” —Colum McCann

The Great Glass Sea is our world made uncanny: the Russian countryside of folktale and literature turned darkly luminous, menacing, and brittle. I was intoxicated by this novel’s brains and I fell hopelessly in love with its heart. Josh Weil is a spectacular talent.” —Lauren Groff

“A marvelously strange parable, brought to earth by a nuanced and deeply felt portrait of fraternal love. If The New Valley didn’t convince you, The Great Glass Sea will: Josh Weil is a storyteller of the first order.” —Joshua Ferris

The Great Glass Sea imagines a Russia of the near-future that stands in for both the rest of the globe and the bonds between us as individuals: a world of both magical bounty and heartbreaking ephemerality. It’s about the urge to on the one hand conserve all we can while on the other to make of all we encounter a field of ceaseless yield, and it’s as sad and filled with wonder on its obsessive subject of brotherly love as any novel I’ve recently encountered.” —Jim Shepard


A New York Times Editor’s Choice
Winner of the 2015 GrubStreet National Book Prize
Shortlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize
A featured LA Times “Summer Book”
A Bustle “Best Book for July”
One of Flavorwire’s “10 Must Read Books for July”


They were ten years old—Dimitryi Levovich Zhuvov and Yaroslav Levovich Zhuvov—and they had never been this far out in the lake, this lost, this on their own. Around them the water was wide as a second sky, darkening beneath the one above, the rowboat a moonsliver winking on the waves. In it, they sat side by side, hands buried in the pockets of their coats, leaning slightly into each other with each sway of the skiff.

“Or maybe it came up,” Dima said, “and crushed the boat.”

“And they drowned,” Yarik said.

“Or,” Dima said, “it ate them.”

They grinned, the same grin at the same time, as if one’s cheeks tugged the other’s lips.

“Or,” Yarik started.

And Dima finished, “They died.”

They went quiet.

The low slap of lakewater knocking the metal hull. The small sharp calls of jaegers: black specs swirling against a frostbitten sky. But no wood blades clacking at the rowboat’s side. No worn handles creaking in the locks. Hours ago, they had lost the oars.

They were losing last light now. Their boat had drifted so far into Lake Otseva’s center that they could no longer make out the shore. But there was the island. All their lives it had been somewhere beyond the edge of sight, and now they watched it: far gray glimpse growing darker, as if the roots of its unknown woods were drawing night up from the earth.