Tolstaya is divinely quotable—slangy, indignant, lyrical, crude. She picks you up—you’re light as a feather—and carries you along. You’re blown this way and that, cuddled and cast down, mocked and treasured. You don’t know where you’re going. None of it makes a lick of sense. It’s all detritus. It’s all sublime. The important becomes unimportant ... It is difficult to convey the gaiety and breadth of Tolstaya’s witchy craft.
Tolstaya is well known in Russia as a brilliant and caustic political critic, but her memories of her Soviet childhood have a tender, personal quality, devoid of any ideological ax-grinding ... Tolstaya is doubly haunted by the past, both by its lostness and by its stubborn refusal to go away. She is blessed, and cursed, with the mystic’s gift of seeing the shades of the departed ... Although this is Tolstaya’s first book to be translated into English in 10 years, it could not be said of Aetherial Worlds that it is all killer, no filler...But it’s more than worth sifting through a little dross for the pleasure of seeing the world through the corrective lens of Tolstaya’s vision, which reveals the world as not just a dull accretion of matter but a complex and shifting system of real and unreal realms, populated by beings both visible and invisible, floodlit by flashes of transcendence.
...a collection of dark, funny folkloric tales. Each is masterful in its ability to keep apace with the world’s banalities and frustrations while moving seamlessly into the surreal ... Tolstaya’s conscious aversion to sentimentality makes you feel as if you alone are catching a glimpse into the secretly vulnerable and deeply captivating souls of her characters.