Skip to content

By David Nickle

Nickle_Rasputin's Bastards

They were the beautiful dreamers.

From a hidden city deep in the Ural mountains, they walked the world as the coldest of Cold Warriors, under the command of the Kremlin and under the power of their own expansive minds.

They slipped into the minds of Russia’s enemies with diabolical ease, and drove their human puppets to murder, and worse.

They moved as Gods. And as Gods, they might have remade the world.

But like the mad holy man Rasputin, who destroyed Russia through his own powerful influence… in the end, the psychic spies for the Motherland were only in it for themselves.

* * *

It is the 1990s.

The Cold War is long finished.

In a remote Labrador fishing village, an old woman known only as Babushka foresees her ending through the harbour ice, in the giant eye of a dying kraken – and vows to have none of it.

Beaten insensible and cast adrift in a life raft, ex- KGB agent Alexei Kilodovich is dragged to the deck of a ship full of criminals, and with them he will embark on a journey that will change everything he knows about himself.

And from a suite in an unseen hotel in the heart of Manhattan, an old warrior named Kolyokov sets out with an open heart, to gather together the youngest members of his immense, and immensely talented, family.

They are more beautiful, and more terrible, than any who came before them.

They are Rasputin’s bastards.

And they will remake the world.

“Nickle’s book is an enormous tale, bewilderingly complex, but with lots of twists and turns that reward close attention. It is grotesque, violent, and exciting, with a supernatural tinge that is his hallmark.”

Boing Boing

“Bram Stoker Award winner Nickle’s latest novel tells a complex story of supernatural horror and psychological suspense crafted with the somber foreboding of a Russian novel and the genre-breaking freedom of magical realism. VERDICT This novel is supernatural eeriness at its best, with intriguing characters, no clear heroes, and a dark passion at its heart. Horror aficionados and fans of Stephen King’s larger novels should appreciate this macabre look at the aftermath of the Cold War.”

Library Journal

“Nickle seems to delight in keeping the reader off-balance, easily achieved when half the novel is set in various fantastic mindscapes that continually weave in and out of conscious reality, creating a novel wherein the reader is perpetually on edge and unsure exactly where any single point of the narrative is set. If you are looking for an easy read a la James Patterson, stay far away: if you find China Mieville’s expert world-building to be enthralling stuff, you’ll have quite a time here.”

Shelf Monkey

“A journey from the depths of the sea, the heart of Mother Russia, to the darkest corners of the soul, this book appeals to the reader’s intellectual curiosity, and engages the heart with surprising moments of emotionality. I definitely will be looking for more of Nickle’s work and highly recommend Rasputin’s Bastards.”

The Crow’s Caw

“What begins as a fairly standard — though perfectly executed — Cold War tale rapidly shows itself to be anything but as Nickle unravels a fascinated and complicated tale of international intrigue and — yes — horror… Nickle is right on point. The prose here is thoughtful, energetic and sharp. Most importantly of all, the plot of Rasputin’s Bastards is complicated and it’s told in a complex way. Despite this, it’s stiffly compelling. Once you’re done, there’s no question: the hours spent enfolded in Nickle’s imagination are well spent. You won’t ever feel the desire to ask for them back.”

January Magazine

Rasputin’s Bastards is Toronto author David Nickle’s most complex and ambitious work yet.”

Toronto Star

“While recognizably ‘genre,’ whatever that may mean to the reader (and their prejudices about the same), Rasputin’s Bastards is not of a genre. Instead it’s an ambitious melange of them all. Nickle’s horror is the theft of body and will; the revelation that one’s father is “A cold, soul-dead killer.” His science fiction feels like 50’s pulps, his fantasy a dark-lensed fairy tale with literary heft. Rasputin’s Bastards is a testament to the fact Nickle can write anything.”

Winnipeg Review

“Nickle manages to imbue his characters with significant agency, using his premise to raise questions of personal responsibility versus societal control rather than hide from them. This strong thematic backbone provides substance to the excellently written spy-thriller material, providing both action and food for thought in a strong sophomore novel . . . Rasputin’s Bastards works on multiple levels. It is an entertaining thriller, a fun secret history/conspiracy theory, and a thoughtful exploration of the importance of one’s own past, the nature and extent of personal responsibility, and the allures and dangers of the human capacity to live in our own illusions.”


“A plot so dissected is not easy to get right, but Nickle juggles it incredibly well. And it’s just the right kind of style for this book.”

-Newstalk 1010

“To read David Nickle is to be reminded what the best storytellers can do, and to glory in unbridled imagination released on the page. David’s achievements in Rasputin’s Bastards are innumerable. He reminds me of no one so much than maestro Dan Simmons, another writer unconstrained by the limits of genre. When it comes to narrative, David dances where others plod, and dares where others play it safe. This is all to say, David Nickle takes no prisoners, and leaves a magnificent bruise as a reminder of the encounter.”

-Corey Redekop

“Part Bioshock, part X-Files, part Sopranos—and 100%, uncut Nickle—Rasputin’s Bastards is a glorious, sprawling, chaotic delight. I wish I’d written it; in fact, I may yet steal the domesticated giant squid.”

-Peter Watts

Rasputin’s Bastards is a book with such a vast canvas and sweep, handled with such command and care by Nickle, that it is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what amazing things can be done with dark historical fantasy.”

-Tony Burgess, author of People Live Still in Cashtown Corners

Rasputin’s Bastards is an utterly unique novel; I’ve never read anything quite like it before. It’s a mind-blowing blend of science fiction, political thriller, and understated horror.”

-Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy blog


ChiZine Publications, June 2012

Panini France

Other Work by David Nickle