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Space Invaders

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,806 ratings  ·  260 reviews
A dreamlike evocation of a generation that grew up in the shadow of a dictatorship in 1980s Chile

Space Invaders is the story of a group of childhood friends who, in adulthood, are preoccupied by uneasy memories and visions of their classmate Estrella González Jepsen. In their dreams, they catch glimpses of Estrella’s braids, hear echoes of her voice, and read old letters t
Paperback, 88 pages
Published 2013 by Alquimia Ediciones
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,806 ratings  ·  260 reviews

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Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childhood, novella, chile
In dreams, as in memory, there is no agreement, nor should there be.

Dreams and childhood memories are not altogether that different. Both are recalled as fractured moments, splinters of memory bound by slippery logic, and both have a hidden, ominous quality. It’s like glimpsing through the windows of an abandoned house and contemplating the complete layout and the history that shaped it. Like an old house, dreams and childhood memories can be haunted, too. Chilean playwright, actress, and auth
Jim Fonseca
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s a coincidence that just a week or so ago I reviewed a book, 77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, about the dictatorship in Argentina and here we have a book about the same situation in neighboring Chile around the same time – late 1970’s through 1990.


This is a very short book, a novella, by a woman who grew up during this time (b. 1971). Because it’s so short I won’t go into much of additional summary at risk of giving more of the story away, although it’s not a book you read for its plot.

Here’s a
Diane S ☔
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A novella, short by definition, but despite this I found this book to be very powerful. I'm always amazed when an author can say so much with so few words. This is not a straightforward story, and it's told in a dreamlike fashion. In fact, dreaming itself is a big part of this novella.

A group of school children, children whose school uniforms must always be worn perfectly. Who walk in lines, their hand on the shoulder of the student in front, so as to keep perfect distances from each other. Perf
Jenny (Reading Envy)
My first read for Women in Translation Month is Space Invaders by Nona Fernandez, translated by Natasha Wimmer, coming out from Graywolf in November or December this year. It is very slim but looks can be so deceiving - it delivered the biggest gut punch with the tiniest gloves ever.

One thing I've noticed as I read more books from around the world, including women in translation, is that many of the stories being told are about living through violent regime change. Space Invaders has a bunch of
The characters in Nona Fernandez’s novella are bound together by the shared experience of growing up in the 1970s and 80s under a military dictatorship, Pinochet’s Chile: an era punctuated by extreme violence, a time of sudden yet routine disappearances, torture and brutal political murders. Too young to fully comprehend what was going on around them, now as adults they’re haunted by fragmented recollections, trying to piece together a flood of half-remembered events, dreams and images. Fernande ...more
"We don't know if this is a dream or a memory. Sometimes we think it's a memory that seeps into our dreams, a scene that escapes from someone's memory and hides between all of our dirty sheets."

From SPACE INVADERS by Nona Fernández, translated from the Spanish [Chile] by Natasha Wimmer // 2016 in Spanish / 2019 English translation by @graywolfpress

Fernández’s slim #novella (70-some pages overall) explores this diaphonous space between memories and dreams.

A group of school friends recall and reme
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if Space Invaders is a short novella or a long short story, but whatever it is, it's very strong. It tells the story of a group of Chilean friends, weaving together fragments of dreams and memories as they are haunted by absence of one of their childhood friends. An evocative, piercing, unique look at life under Pinochet. ...more
This was read with some members of the SFFBC group for a diversity reading challenge (the task was: "A book by a S. American woman or nonbinary person"). This book didn't actually win, but the nature of the challenge is such that we can read any book that's nominated (or that fits the challenge) in any round, and so I decided to read this one.

So I should start this review by stating that I know very little (correction: almost nothing) about Chile's political history, and part of my decision to
Poetic and powerful, this very brief work says a great deal in few words.
“We are the most important piece in a game, but we still don’t know what the game is.”

A short but haunting tale of children caught up in conflicts during Chile’s Pinochet regime.

The telling of this narrative is amazing. Fernández lightly uses Space Invaders (a violent video game popular during the time of these events) as both frame and allegory. She artfully portrays the viewpoint of children, and we know children have a way of seeing right to the truth of things.

The story emerges from a comp
A group of childhood friends are haunted by memories of their classmate González, who doesn't show up for school one day in 1985 and never returns. (Like every other character in the book, she is referred to only by her last name throughout.) The friends narrate the story as a chorus, with individuals' threads sometimes emerging from the cacophony. Like many novels and stories by Latin American writers of this period, Space Invaders depicts the effects of political turmoil and dictatorial regime ...more
Bogi Takács
This one says "A novel", but it is so short it might not even be a novella but more like a novelette? I really appreciated it, it examines dictatorship and politics through the eyes of children (but it is very much a work for adults) and also through the process of dreaming. I thought it might be speculative because of the title, but it's a reference to the computer game; though it's definitely of interest to a speculative readership because of the dreamlike ambience. The political aspects were ...more
Mac Gushanas
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

A terrific little book that captures the confusion, blurriness, and pain in trying to remember what it was like being a child under Pinochet’s regime (was it all real? was it imagined? is it easier to grapple with not knowing what is a dream and what is a memory?). Memories and dreams haunt all of the characters in this novella, a grown-up generation struggling to realize the atrocities they grew up around. The only comforts are the moments here and there shared with friends: zapping vi
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Satisfying--which, granted, is a weird thing to say about a novella that is largely about memory and trauma of a childhood spent under Pinochet's regime. I think that particular feeling is due to how tightly and neatly constructed it is, while, at the same time, retaining the sense of the slipperiness of memory. In short, this is a very well written novella. Its impact is way above its page count. Hence the satisfaction.

The dreams are all different. Different as our minds, different as our m
Four interlinked stories, each consisting of several episodes, form this short but intense novella. The title is taken from a video game popular among young people at the time when Pinochet ruled in Chile (with the suggestive analogy between targeting “space aliens” in the game and mass killings of innocent civilians). It’s always unsettling to read how children see and experience brutal political realities, and when the surrounding events disturbingly awaken them from their childish naiveté. He ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A greek chorus of disembodied school children, seemingly in some bardo (thanks George Saunders), sharing their dreams and classroom memories of each other in the final years of Pinochet's Chile. Their voices have a nostalgic, tart sweetness and even a playfulness that makes life under the Pinochet regime seem both ordinary and surreal. This is a tiny slip of a book, maybe two hours of reading time, but many hours of thinking time. ...more
Naomi Ruth
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
When I saw the publisher I knew I had to read this novella and I was not disappointed. I devoured it last night. It is so beautiful written. Such powerful imagery and voice. Love, love, love.
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A slim novella that captures life as a child under the Pinochet regime. Dream-filled, with the narration generally a collective consciousness of a group of school friends who are haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a classmate and the subjugation of their families to an authoritarian government. It kind of reminded me of The Waves by Virginia Woolf because of its meandering from perspective to perspective and muddled plot points. A super quick read if you’re looking for a great book in tr ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of a novella than a novel. It's incredibly well written and kept me engrossed. In fact, I'm impressed how a 70 page book can be so poignant and make me feel so deeply. Fernandez did a great job capturing the chaos that was Pinochet's rule - particularly the latter half of the dictatorship. ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Space Invaders is a short novella that consists of the dreams and memories of a group of childhood friends from the 1980’s speaking about their experiences during the earlier years of the Pinchot regime in Chile. The central focus of the narration is one particular friend, Estrella Gonzalez whose father was part of that regime and how she came into and then out of their lives. As the story progresses there are repeated tales of their regimented school life, of lining up and chanting the national ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A small book about the Chilean dictatorship through the eyes of children. The writing includes dreams, it is very lyrical, you have to piece the facts together yourself. I read it in a couple of hours and I liked it. It reminded me of a greek book about our dictatorship, again through children's eyes (Τα γενέθλια, Ζωρζ Σαρρή).

I wish I knew more about the Chilean dictatorship, the greek edition thankfully has a small chapter at the end with historical facts, very useful.
Apr 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
We are a big piece of a board game, but we still don't know which. ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story about collective trauma and how it manifests in ways that muddle how we perceive reality, time, and sense. The form and structure of the novella echoes the video game of the same name, which acts, for the kids who are the focus here, as a sort of filter through which the shock and memory of Chile’s dark years pass, coming out tarnished, threadbare, and fragmented onto the page.

In a nutshell, the poetics of the book is this: “Time isn’t straightforward, it mixes everything up, shuffles th
I wish I had known/knew more about the Pinochet regime before reading this book (I know, duh, that seems obvious). I could tell it was powerful but it was just ever so slightly over my head. Not rating it at this time in reflection of that, though I do hope to learn more and come back to it later for a proper reading.
Latin American fiction that finds sly, ominous ways to deal with past political trauma is a genre unto itself (see: everything Roberto Bolano wrote).

Space Invaders is extremely short, but Nona Fernandez confidently carves her own path through that aesthetic terrain. She crafts the voice of a collective of children who recall, both bluntly and impressionistically, the horrific violence and Orwellian mistrust under the Pinochet regime. Disappeared parents, creepy chain-smoking uncles who do 'somet
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short novella about the collective dreams of adults remembering their childhood in Chili during Pinochet's regime. The memories center on one of their classmates named Estella who one day had to leave school and never came back.

Some memories are ordinary, some are sad, angry, and confused. Some memories are violent and terrifying. All seem to revolve around Estrella. She was a mysterious jewel in a strange world and the memories of Chili revolve around the memories of her.
Lee Klein
A short story, maybe a short novella, 70 published pages with lots of blank pages thanks to many short sections. Dreams, letters, descriptions from the perspective of an adolescent. Ominous political presence paralleled by the ever-descending alien regiments in the old Atari game. Sudden assassination of a star character. I'm not generally a fan of young narrators, but it's a quick, intermittently intriguing read. ...more
Tamara Evans
A short read at seventy pages that packs a big punch. At it’s core, this book is about a group of childhood friends who all share fragmented memories of a former classmate, Estrella. As each classmate has different dreams featuring Estrella, they long to find out what has happened to her since although she used to write to them, eventually, the letters stopped.

The title “space invaders” is poignant on a variety of levels. First, the title directly refers to the childhood video game “space invade
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As someone who went into this book knowing very little of Chilean history and the Pinochet regime, I wasn't sure what to expect. This novella packs an intense punch! What I enjoyed most was how the book got me thinking about the unintended consequences politics and violence have on our most vulnerable part of the world's population: children. Even though this story jumps from character to character and dream to dream, it still manages to seamlessly tell the story of a group of kids who lose one ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, professional
I first gave this 4-stars then changed it to 5-stars.

I cannot get this book out of my head. I'm surprised by the power of this short novel. It's quite haunting and heartbreaking. Fernandez has a remarkable talent for writing only what is necessary for the story.

She captures the disorientation of growing up during a time of political upheaval, being touched by violence at a young age and how that colors all of life that follows. For different reasons I relate to the haze of coming of age in a t
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Space Invaders" by Nona Fernández (BR) 26 65 Mar 02, 2021 02:30PM  

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Patricia Paola Fernández Silanes (born 23 June 1971), better known as Nona Fernández, is a Chilean actress, author, and screenwriter. She is a recipient of the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, and the Altazor prize (on many occasions).

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