First book by Vladimir Sorokin, that I kinda liked. All his anal phase obsessions are still there, but this time they are used with some sense (I know...moreFirst book by Vladimir Sorokin, that I kinda liked. All his anal phase obsessions are still there, but this time they are used with some sense (I know some people who were entertained by them before, I personally don't care about shit eating and stuff like that and find it neither funny nor cool, Salo is the worst film by Pasolini to my tastes). So the book describes Russia's near future, when days of Ivan The Terrible have met hi-tech digital age: the country is caged behind Great Russian Wall, Czar is in power again, days of Red (communist) and White (democracy) Disturbance are forgotten. We follow one day of an oprichnik Andrei Komyaga - he is one of the most feared Czar's swordsmen (version of KGB agent), he kills and rapes and mugs and burns left and right in the name of Country interests, not forgetting about his own pocket and the need to pay up his superiors. Oprichniks are censoring art and fucking women whom they just made widows. They are fighting other intelligence services, while taking hi-tech hardcore drugs. They own their country and they say each time: "Thank God!". Should I place this book onto "is-that-future" shelf - that is the question...(less)
- "One billion years before end of the world" - short novel about several scientists who are on verge of breakthroughs...moreIn this volume we have 3 novels:
- "One billion years before end of the world" - short novel about several scientists who are on verge of breakthroughs of their studies are being stalked but numerous accidents, incidents, distractions and promotions which divert them from their work. Scientists have no idea they are reaching breakthroughs, they can't see any system with those accidents, incidents, distractions and promotions, but at some point they start to figure out that some other civilization, very powerfull one, is trying to prevent Earth from different achievments. So the scientists are facing a choice: to stop doing what they're doing or to keep doing what they're doing. Different desions are made, different consequenses are met.
-"The Doomed City" - perhaps the most metaphorical and allegorical novel by Strugatsky brothers. The City is a model of hell. People are being taken from our world to the City on the verge of their deaths for some social "Experiment". There's no direct words that these people are dead, but it is rather clear. The city is surrounded by sky-size yellow wall, there's no way out. All people are speaking one language and switch their proffessions all the time. At the first stage structure of "Experiment" City is clearly reflects Soviet form of state, but then evolves to a fashist regime. Enviroment is filled with gloom apocalycptic characters and details. The most important thing about this novel is that it vivdly represent inner state of depression that was very peculiar for Soviet society in 70s.
- "Tale of friendship and non-friendship" is a small fairy-tale for teenagers, which I can't read further 10th page for some reason. Something about a boy who climed into some hole behind his fridge and found somethiing not even relatively as interesting as what Alisa has found.(less)
These early works by Strugtasky brothers are about ordinary brave communists who are giving herioc trial runs around Solar System. There are no evil gu...moreThese early works by Strugtasky brothers are about ordinary brave communists who are giving herioc trial runs around Solar System. There are no evil guys or complicated characters. All people we meet are doing what they can to do all the best. In the second decade of XXI century these two novels from this first volume ("The land of crimson clouds" and " A road to Almateya") reads unbelievably naive. Strugtasky brothers' satire and thrillers from the 60's somehow can be predicted in these texts, but later dark, tragic and anti-totalitarian books from 70s and 80s - in no way.(less)
This fifth volume contains two novels: "Tale of Court Trio" and "Non-desert island". (if you want you can find reviews of previous four books in my go...moreThis fifth volume contains two novels: "Tale of Court Trio" and "Non-desert island". (if you want you can find reviews of previous four books in my goodreads reviews)
"Non-desert island" recently made into 20 million budget action movie, which box office were extremely poor and their producers are still having problems. On a distant planet huge Empire collapsed. Its formers colonies are now the harshest enemies of the metropoly. There's also huge threat from the south. Although this metropoly is a rather filthy place, very poor, filled with violence and poverty, somehow its people are happy with its leaders - Unknown Fathers. These people are spending a lot of time buliding ballistic missile defence towers, which, they believe, will defend them from even more vicios neighbors - formers co-parts of the collapsed empire. There's only minor group of people who are NOT happy - "degenerates". Degenerates are trying to read books, trying not to believe everything they hear from media, etc, but their problem is that they suffer from severe headaches. People with such headaches are being brutally terrorrized and sometimes killed by the main population. Soon it turns out that ballistic missile defence towers are NOT ballistic missile defence towers, but brainwashing towers, that make whole population complete fools, who are to believe every single nonsense TV and radio says and ready to sacrifice their lifes for it. "degenerates" though are the only people who can resist that effect. But the side effect is their severe headaches. All the Unknown Fathers are of course degenerates who have installed this system to gain and hold power forever. You can read between lines here if you want, I have no idea how such a book could be published in 1967 in USSR. Also I wanted to stage it as a movie since I was a 12 years old boy and recent disaster, which happened to its screen adaptation rips out my heart.
"Tale of Court Trio" is a sequel of "Monday starts on Saturday" - same characters, same scene. Perhaps Strugatskies' humor drifted as 6-7 years passed from KVNish mocking and giggling to rather dark satire, full of hopelessness to ever beat burocracy in the state (it turned out, it's easier to throw down state itself, then its buroucrats). Three judges "rationalize" and "utilize" "unexplained appearances" like ailens or speaking bugs or royal octopuses by hitting them with Big Round Stamp. Appereances complain, they try to prove smth., but buroucartic system works like a clock - their destiny is only to be rationalized and utilized. This novel bears the same problem as "Monday starts on Saturday" - it tries to make jokes which are not funny at all. Other then that, it's a nice book.(less)
UPDATE: The last novel written by Boris and Arkadiy Strugatsky together was "The waves extinguish the wind" and it was final Noon World novel at the sa...moreUPDATE: The last novel written by Boris and Arkadiy Strugatsky together was "The waves extinguish the wind" and it was final Noon World novel at the same time. And one of my favorites. Comitee of Control, ComCon, secret agency of this happy, utopic world (see "A bug inside ant hill" review below) investigates intrusion into Earth affairs by the Wanderes, unknown Super-Civilization which seemed to dominate Universe thousands years ago and left rare evidences, traps, weapons etc. across our Galaxy. Their activity is closely connected with the events of "Bug inside ant hill" (see below),"The baby" and other Strugatsky's books. The investigation leads to "The Great Revelation.", which pretty much concludes whole Noon World saga... And not in a happy-ending way at all, although this whole Wanderers thing turns out to be something you won't expect. Someone else operates secretly indeed, someone unbelievebly powerfull, someone who hardly even notices human beings, but it's not some creepy aliens at all... ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ UPDATE:
"Limping fate" represents that kind of late Soviet literature that was giving authorities the finger behind it's back. Basically it joins two stories: one of newly invented machine that defines level of talent of any given text; and another one - of one of the texts researched by that machine, "Blue file", secretly written by an aging knocked-out writter, very talanted but pursued by censorship. First story mainly involves Strugatsky's impressions from Leningrad's literature bogema life and some biographical details of Arkady's life, "Blue file" describes some imaginary fascist regime, which is callapsing by the hits of young non-conformistic generation, leaded by some Wet People, who are either new race or aliens. Today this novel looks a bit old-fashioned... Nowdays when you touch political issues and have something to say, you better say it straight and clear. And the world where this whole situation is placed is not "invented" enough to be intresting for such a book, it's clearly USSR with light titles and toponims changing. But I will still 5-star this volume because of "Bug inside ant hill" and "The waves extinguish the wind". These are amazing books. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ First novel in this volume is "Bug inside ant hill". My favorite Strugatsky' brothers book.In this story Noon World society reveals its totalitarian side, previously unseen. At firstthe book pretends to be some kind of sci-fi detective novel. Maksim Cammerer (we met him in several other novels about Progressors - people who are being planted inside backward planets to accelarate their development) recieved new assignment - he has to find some Progressor, Lev Abalkin who run away from a planet where he was planted, killed another Progressor and hides somewhere on Earth. Maksim now works for another body - Comitee of Control, ComCon, But quickly we realize that there is something way more important here then rabid progressor. That Lev Abalkin has very weird biography, his parents are unknown, he never really had friends, it was obviuosly forbidden for him to live on Earth... Maksim's investigation starts to be more and more complicated. Not giving away the story itself, what we really see here is this dillemma of secret service - does it have the right to dispose lifes of ordinary people in higher and sometimes justified interests? Where is the limit where secret service can interfere in someone's life to secure other people's lifes? These questions were urgent when the book was written by obvoius reason of amount KGB's interference into people's life and they are urgent today when KGB again rules our country... For Strugatsky' brothers answer is obvious - no, they can't do that to their citizens because it quickly ends with paranoia and terror against own people when you think you can decide for them what they should do and what they don't, But not all Strugatsky characaters think like that... Some do, but they're destined to loose... So sad, but so true... I love this book and I would gladly re-tell whole story, I just hope someone wiil read it, who didn't, so no spoilers :)(less)
Strugatsky brothers' moto was always "evolve or die" This second volume contains two books from their "Noon World" utopian saga. It connects with Strug...moreStrugatsky brothers' moto was always "evolve or die" This second volume contains two books from their "Noon World" utopian saga. It connects with Strugatskies first works (see my previous review) by several characters, but a lot of things has changed. But what this "Noon World" is? Here are several main features:
- XXII century - There are no money or borders, only jobs. To eat equals to breathe, there are no problems or pay checks connected with that - System of "teachers" is in effect. Childs are taken from their parents at 5-6 and raised by professioals, whose goal is to determine each person calling. Teachers are the most respected people in the world - by that, the highest moral standards are achived across the globe. all people are good. - It's a global technocracy world, where everything is decided in accordance with the Science goals. - Mankind are moving to the deepest parts of our galaxy on their starships, several humanoid races found but the Contact is hard to make (intersting part in that area: wild Pandora planet is being colonized by our Earth, it's a wildlife planet, jungle-like, full of predators and one humanoid race. There are flying dragons on Pandora and a lot of other similarities with you know what - hello, mr. Cameron)
First "Noon World" book in this volume is "Comeback. Noon. XXII century". it's a mosaic book, there are a lot of plotlines in there, small stories etc. For example: asronaunts who were laucnhed into deepest space 150 years are coming. They've visited dozens of planet systems, they've lost some of their friends, but now they come back only to learn that everything they've discovered already discovered, their spaceship and science machines they used are pieces of junk and all they can do is to change their profession. Or this one: story told about four friends being raised by of the Teachers. They dreamed about the stars and battles, but basically became ordinary people with normal professions. Only one of them became a hunter and travels different planets to hunt special animals (hello Pandora again at this part). Once he shoots at something that he thinks is an animal and the back of that something explodes. Later it turnes out that oxygen bag exploded on the back of that "animal" and it was a spacemam of another humanoid race.
Another novel in this volume is less interesting, it's called "Trainee". In this one Strugatskies are killing off their main characters of Noon World or sending them to be on pension. Since I've read all the books to follow about 15 years ago, I know that Noon World saga will continue with new characters in other books, but not as utopia but rather as a serie of disptopias or sci-fi dramas.
Generally, Strugatskies became more dramatic and sophisticated in literature sense by that time (beggining of the 60s), but still dawdled around common good and morale notations.(less)
"Vicious items of a century" "Anxiety" ("Snail on the Slope-1") "Snail on the Slope" "Second Martians Invasion"
"Vicous items" is a projection of an satisfied capitalistic world. Imagine society with all its competition, individualism and yearning to be on top, BUT when basic needs are fullfilled. There are almost free food and roof and clothes and things like that for everybody, but people who are living in this place are not those moral high-maidnesses from previous Strugatskies books, but ordinary people with all the complexes and fears and troubles. We know at some point that majority of population here are psyhotic drug users and that they are bored. Also we know that there are groups of educated terrorists ( a la we saw in reaility in 60-70s) who don't really enjoy this world. This pretty much everything this novel tells us. In some way it sounds a bit Gibson-like, but not as tragic and dark.
"Anxiety" is the book Cameron stole took "Avatar" ideas from That's of course my personal opinion, nothing more. I'll list SOME (not all) coincidences and you judge: - Characters are acting on a distant planet named Pandora, which is being colonized by humans. - Earth is using their techical advantage (machines, helicopters etc) in this colonization - Pandora is a jungle-ilke planet filled with all kinds of predators and other living things - Aborigene race are people tied to nature in some way, they are intelligent, but living without any technic whatsoever, weird but kind people - Human's base is located on some riffs "in the sky" which are impossible to reach - Main character crashes into jungle and starts living with aborigens. - He falls in love with local village girl who loves him back - Main character human identity is replaced by Pandorian (aborigens do that to him) - Flying dragons are present - The way aborigens are living and our well-known human way are cotradicting inside Atos (main character) and here is where real conflict starts. (i won't give away the dénouement since there is a little chance you will ever read this novel or didn't see Avatar)
"Snail on the Slope" is a basically same book, but all Future sci-fi projections are replaced with satire on Soveit buerocratic system.
"Second Martians Invasion" is an another satire book, the part of Strugatskies I never really liked. The novel mocks the way how people tend to lay under media nonsense we hear everyday on TV and radio. There is no Walles like war or evil-doing. All Martians should do is to take newspapers, TV and radio and start to brain-wash and bribe people with easy-money. They meet no or very minor resistanse. Although I like the idea perhaps, I find the humor itself not funny.
ok, I've covered 4 volumes of 11 so far and really tired from Strugatskies to tell the truth :) I'll take a big break and get back to smth. which is more important to me. I'm not giving up entirely though, I will finish covering rest of the volumes later this year or maybe in 2011.(less)
This third volume of Strugatsky Brothers works opens up a theme of Progresors.
Progressors - are the Noon World (see my other reviews of Strugatskies n...moreThis third volume of Strugatsky Brothers works opens up a theme of Progresors.
Progressors - are the Noon World (see my other reviews of Strugatskies novels about Noon World) scouts to other planets where progress of society is very low. These scouts cannot interfere directly but they are taking different big roles in these low-end societies and tring to influent them in a good way, to push them ahead.
Hard to Be a God is one of the most popular Strugatskies novel across former USSR and one of the most known on the West. Scene is a Medieval world , somewhere in between japan, spain and france. Main character, powerfull and rich Don Rumata is a progressor from Earth. He is capable of everything. He is hidden god. Middle Ages is a disgusting time though, we know that. Ignorance, obscurantism, humilations, social deprivings are present. "Grey Ones" (clear reminiscence about Ernst Rem bandits) are terrorazing ordinary people, raping women and robbing men. Rumata does everything he can, but something even more evil happens. Dark coup d'état is coming and that will be clearly totaltarian state. All metapshors and citations about XX century were rather clear even in the 60's, but people appreciated that Rumata in the end sees that the only way out of this mess is to take sword and kill. Other then that no one can make cruel society to be good. I have no idea how such book could be published back then.
"Escape try" is an another "progressor" novel in this volume, but about slave society and way less interesting.
There are two more "non-progressor" novels here. First one is 100% most popular Strugatskies novel in the former USSR. It's called "Monday starts on Saturday". In outward appearance it's a funny tale about modern mages and wizards who work in a regular science institute, pretending to be regular sceintists. "Magic Wand Division" etc. Someting like Harry Potter for adults. But if you look deeper, it's a viciois pamflet against pseudo-science - all those UFO's, global warnings, secret Hitler antarctic bunkers, Nicola Tesla explosions etc. Personally I never liked "Monday starts on Saturday" because the book isn't funny enough to be great satire, but at the same time speaks double-talk which is never good imo.
Last novel of this volume is a "Distant rainbow" which is made in a catastrophe genre. Whole planet is about to die, scientists from Earth are working here, their wifes and children are with them. Main conflict spins around the fact that there is only one spaceship on this planet that can save people and there is no room for all of them. In the end it's is decided to save children and leave science achievments back. And that's what happens.(less)
In this volume we find four novels: "Roadside Picnic", "Hotel by the Lost mountain-climber", "The Guy from Hell" and "The baby".
Roadside Picnic is an...moreIn this volume we find four novels: "Roadside Picnic", "Hotel by the Lost mountain-climber", "The Guy from Hell" and "The baby".
Roadside Picnic is an obviously the most well-known Strugatskies' book between western readers. Partly because of Tarkovsky's movie named "Stalker" (which has only slightest connections with the book, although Strugatskies were writing the script themselves - I guess sometimes it's easier for the authors to play with their own creation), partly because of recent very popular PC game named "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." which despite it's title is way more closer to the book then to the Tarkovsky's film. Partly because this is a kind of universal text with only few Soviet connotations, mostly forced ones by the cencorship (on the backstage we see a glipse of good guys, who are from SU). If you never read it and like general sci-fi or William Gibson-like cyberpunk - go ahead and read it, you won't regret.
Some unknown superior alien civilization lands on Earth and leaves it after some time without any sign of contact. The places where they were is now called The Zones - big pieces of landscape where aliens were operating and where they left piles of diff. stuff mostly deadly dangerous but sometimes very usefull, like small sticks that can serve as a never-ending energy source. The Zone is filled with deadly traps and illusions and people who dare to go inside and dig stuff are called Stalkers. A lot of corporate groups and gangsters and the State are fighting for the valueable stuff which is inside the Zone and eventually for the Stalkers who are being hunted and prosecuted but needed by these groups at the same time. Luckily the book is not all about action which's not more then a decoration, but about life and sacrifice of one particular Stalker - the part which Tarkovsky used in his film.
"The Guy from Hell" is a small novel that continues Strugatskies serie about people of the future who intervine in life of distant benighted planets to promote their faster development - Progressors (books like "Hard to God" or "Non-desert island"). This one tells the story not of one the Progressors, but viсe versa - story of one of the inhabitant of one such distant benighted planet, who was incindentaly taken away to Earth. He is a fascist, plain awfull vicious type of person who we can easily meet in our, not so lofty times who is being put into completely good environment, John Lennon's "Imagine"-like. Where all the people are scietists or artists, where everything is clean and comfortable, where no one hates or presses anyone and where everything is free. This guy is actually from Hell, WWI-like times and he is forced to try to fit into a world with no violance at all and he fails.
"Hotel by the Lost mountain-climber" is written in a very rare genre for the Soviet lit - sci-fi crime story. Old police investigator is having his vacation on a remote mountain resort. There's only small group of people besides this investigator in the hotel - two loners, old guy with a young beautifull wife and another grownup with an even younger niece. And the owner of the place with his maid. Someting strange is happening in this hotel and as you expect a suicide is commited at some point - one of the loners is killed. The investigator starts to investigate and in case if you will ever read this book I won't tell what's going on further, but I can tell 99% that you won't ever guess what it is/ And also that in the end crime story turns into a tragedy.
I can't write about "The baby" right now for some personal reasons, but maybe I will a little later. (less)
This is my favorite book by Boris And Arkady Strugatsky and most probably favorite science fiction book overall. Main idea: no matter how kind and fai...moreThis is my favorite book by Boris And Arkady Strugatsky and most probably favorite science fiction book overall. Main idea: no matter how kind and fair a World is, creating Secrete Service leads to death of an innocent people. It does so even when original purpose of its creation is good and people who serve in it are nice and fair. In this sense "Beetle in the Anthill" and "Homeland" (TV series) have very much in common... Events take place in so-called "Noon World" - sci-fi utopia, distant future, when all the men are kind and powerful, ultimate science achievements provided people with infinite wealth, with no money, no poverty, no greed, long healthy lives and star travels all around Universe with a mission to help other civilizations to succeed. Everything is fine. Basically John Lennon got it right in "imagine". Maksim Cammerer, who serves for COMCON-2 - newly created secret service with a mission to protect Earth from unwanted intrusions, receives important assignment - he has to find a "progressor" (that's how those people who serve on distant stars are called), Lev Abalkin. He suddenly run away from a planet where he was planted, killed another "progressor" (which is something unbelievable for people of Noon World - there is no crime) and hides somewhere on Earth. Maksim quickly realizes there is something way more important here then rabid "progressor". Lev Abalkin has very weird biography, his parents are unknown, he never really had friends, and it seems like it was forbidden for him to live on Earth (which is also completely unprecedented)... Now not giving everything away, I just wanna say that I love this book and definitely recommend it to everyone who didn't have a chance to read it yet - you'll have a lot of fun and that bittersweet ending... I promise you won't regret it and if you will indeed - there are more books by Strugatskies about "Noon World" so it's a fun with continuation.
This novel starts as a post-nuclear war story, develops as a science fiction about robots with a bussines flavor and ends up as a time-traveller story...moreThis novel starts as a post-nuclear war story, develops as a science fiction about robots with a bussines flavor and ends up as a time-traveller story (travels time to change his past to make future better). Heinlein is not my author, his characters are too crafty and cool for my tastes, but I shall give him all the proper respect for his imagination and creativity, although almost everything he predicted in this book for 2001 happened in completely another way. Who would care to have a self-turning newspaper nowdays when we have internet? (less)
Fun read, the real review is the one Manny wrote, I have almost nothing to add to it, except two things:
- what if Lorenzo happens to sleep with A woma...moreFun read, the real review is the one Manny wrote, I have almost nothing to add to it, except two things:
- what if Lorenzo happens to sleep with A woman that already slept with original Bonforte? Perhaps in this era manhood as easily simulated as faces, then question arises about original Bonfote - if he was well-endowed then Lorenzo is lucky, if he wasn't I'm about to feel sorry about Lorenzo. There's third secret version - he never cheated on that former Bonforte girl ever again, but I kinda getting into weird area here...
- Whether real Bonforte was assisinated indeed or he just got old and feeble and his team decided to remove him is not clear for me. Why it was never clarified who attempted Bonforte life? Or the team didn't want to find out? Was Martians pulling strings behind this plot? It's not believeable Lorenzo-Bonforte wouldn't want to know.(less)