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Definitely Maybe

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,793 ratings  ·  232 reviews
In its first-ever unexpurgated edition, a sci-fi landmark that's a comic and suspenseful tour-de-force, and puts distraction in a whole new light: It's not you, it's the universe!

Boris and Arkady Strugatsky were the greatest science fiction writers of the Soviet era: their books were intellectually provocative and riotously funny, full of boldly imagined scenarios and veil
Paperback, 144 pages
Published 1978 by Collier Macmillan Publishing Co. (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,793 ratings  ·  232 reviews

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Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book twenty-five years ago, but now ... it is no longer the same book ... it is a much better book. For one thing, the old English version was based on a manuscript that was heavily edited by Soviet censors. For another, I have changed, and so the impressions I received were altogether different.

Think of a community of scientists and scholars in Leningrad, all on the point of making breakthroughs. Suddenly, they find themselves being literally driven to distraction by ... by an
Ekaterina Kiseki
One of my favorite books. I have no idea why but best memories of my life are connected with abnormal heat, that's one of the reasons I loved the atmosphere of the book. The technique the authors used here makes a book captivating. Messy diary pages describing messy lives of the characters.
I can draw a parallel between the idea of the story and things that are happening in the world right now. Several decades ago people eagerly wanted to explore outer space with the help of new technologies, now
Cavanşir Gadimov
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A different kind of SF. Less action more of thinkings.

My review:
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, russian
Completely just like Roadside Picnic, then...except, no, bizarre in a totally different way...
I feel a bit dense because it took until near the end for me to figure out what the allegorical/satirical point behind it all was. Having done so, I'm surprised it got published at all in the USSR.

Also, does that darned integral equal zero or not?!
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, a translator and an astronomer respectively, united to produce some of the most popular science fiction of the Soviet era. Their novels have only recently been released in their entirety and translated for Western markets. Filled with veiled (and not-so-veiled) allusions to the repressive regime under which they toiled, Definitely Maybe stands as their personal favorite and most stringently critical of books.

Here is the story of a group of scientists in vari
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, sci-fi
Alacakaranlık Kuşağı hikayelerinden biri gibi. Uzun diyaloglar ve bazı teknik terimler anlaşılmasını ve hikayeye odaklanmayı zorlaştırıyor. Ama okumak için zaman ayırmaya değer kesinlikle (belki).

It's like one of the Twilight Zone stories. Long dialogues and some technical terms make it difficult to understand and to focus to the main theme. But it worths to spend time to read definitely (maybe).
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-challenge
I rarely read something and think to myself "I need to read everything they've ever written" but that's how I felt after reading Definitely Maybe by the Strugatskys.

The book is a funny and often frightening look at the powers of distraction and the lengths some will go to stop progress. The narrative moves at a very quick place and drops off at integral points only to pick up a bit later leaving the reader almost disoriented. It's as if you become a part of the chaos of the plot. I don't want t
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Easy to read, hard to follow.
While I really enjoyed the book, I confess that I spent most of the time wondering whether I truly understood what was happening, and whether or not any of it was real.
An astrophysicist trying to finish work on his theory is repeatedly thwarted by: unexplained alcohol, a random woman in a short skirt, strange men, and the potential visitation of (for want of a better word) aliens.

"I can't say that I didn't understand his theory, but I can't say that I fully grasped i
Ruediger Landmann
Definitely Maybe is short, but very dense: not an easy read at all. This is a piece of fiction in which idea is central: not character, or story. It tells the story of four Soviet scientists, each working in separate disciplines, who are being distracted from their work by a series of bizarre events. They quickly decide that the distractions are quite deliberate: an attempt to keep them from their work.

Probably the most divisive thing about this book is (view spoiler)
Abhishek Kona
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bunch of scientists suddenly get blocked by random events from making progress. A hot girl shows up, they start getting wrong number phone calls etc. We don't know why.

I love style of science fiction here were the supernatural does not reveal itself. I devoured the book in less than a day.
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The person who gave me this thought Oasis' first album "Definitely Maybe" was derived from the title of this book. I don't know if that is true, but I cannot imagine either Noel or Liam (especially Liam) reading this.

I avoided other reviews because I wanted to take a stab at some sort of interpretation. This is a very short novel which is dense with ideas that mostly go over my head. That is not to say it is not enjoyable on some Kafka-esque level. I don't know if it is the translation, but it i
Jim Steele
Jan 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi, pb, russia
Hate to admit this, but I have no idea what this book was about! Yes, there's satire about a totalitarian government. Got that. But I didn't get the plot and there are no developed characters. Little more than a novella, they needed to spend some time and write a real novel. Russian sci fi is an acquired taste, and I don't seem to have the hang of it yet!
Marc Gerstein
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-fiction
This was a fabulous idea, scientists on the verge of major potentially Nobel Prize-worthy breakthroughs suddenly being so interrupted in the flow of their work as to suggest that something/someone does not want the works concluded, but the execution didn’t quite work for me, and I’m not inclined to blame it on efforts to get around 1970s Soviet Union censorship (actually, the translation I read was not impacted by the censors). I think it was way, way way too much “tell” and negligible “show,” a ...more
Arkapravo Bhaumik
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Strugatsky brothers did a Kafka here, and pulled it off in some style. The fear of destiny unfolding to wield its fists and fangs to a scary reality is the broad theme of this novella. After I finished the book, my first reaction was that how come it has not been made into a blockbuster movie? It has all the necessary ingredients for a Kubrick, Scorsese or Tarkovsky psychological thriller. It was only later that I got to know that at least three movies have been made on this book, or broadly ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel was written in the 1970's and the setting appears to be contemporary to that period. Leningrad is recording the hottest weather on record for the past two hundred years. In his sweltering apartment, the astrophysicist Dmitri Malianov is doing important work, Nobel Prize important work. He has sent his wife and the bobchik to the coast for some privacy. Privacy will allude him.

A bag of gorceries, filled with unimaginable delicacies, arrives. A lovely young woman, a friend of Malianov;s
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Strugatsky brothers puts you behind the wheel, and you can navigate freely through the possible dimensions of this novella, jump from one to one at will, and you can even do that in one sentence more than once, I admire this equally as Sci-Fi piece, or as a Sociopolitical one that discusses the deep effects of The State on its people and how this shapes every aspect of their lives to an extent even beyond control, and sometimes drive them against their will, and shapes the very nature of the ...more
Stephen Curran
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Soviet era novel involving a dwarf who vanishes into thin air and what might be aliens or a malevolent, rebelling Universe, that one of the authors described as being a "piece of our [own] life ... filled with absolutely concrete people and real events."

It is structured something like a play, taking place almost entirely inside one apartment, with many of the key events occurring 'off-stage'. Scientists from varying disciplines are finding themselves being prevented from continuing their work,
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Maliqnov, a mathematical astrophysics, home by himself in the hot St Petersburg summer, is on the verge of a scientific breakthough. But strange things keep happening to interrupt his work. He becomes convinced that something or someone is conspiring to stop his research. The same kinds of interruptions are happening also his friends, not only in the sciences but also in history. Could aliens, or an advanced secret society or even the uinverse itself be conspiring to block the progress of the hu ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
weirdly, although this is science fiction, i did not pick it up in conjunction with my recent simultaneous meditations on formative science fiction and my duty to read it. which is actually not so weird, because it's a completely different animal from the classic american formative sci-fi that i've been thinking about. the strugatsky brothers get that what's creepiest is what's not just completely unknown but beyond your comprehension. i haven't read enough sci-fi to figure out if bradbury & co. ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was definitely maybe okay. A minimalistic, Russian sort of book, which never leaves a multi-storey apartment house. The characters struck me as interesting and convincing. Lots of alcoholic indulgences, followed by hot tea and candy. Strange things happen, which are in some cases barely described.

The narrative fades in and out. It's supposedly a discontinuous manuscript. From where or by whom is unclear. The main character is faced with a dilemma: should he choose his family over his work
Bradley Skaught
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an extraordinary book. At the most immediate level of discourse, its Soviet-era paranoia is razor sharp and fraught with delicious tension. But it operates on a number of levels, asking complicated moral questions with great humor and gritty suspense. The science-fiction touches are so lightly applied, it could almost be a straightforward portrayal of noir-ish intrigue, but the fantasy elements elevate everything with just the right amount of absurdity to bring a powerful weight to the char ...more
World Literature Today
"Definitely Maybe offers a serious probe of ethical issues related to the responsibilities of scholars. But what makes it irresistibly engrossing are the richness of the characters, the weirdness and politically metaphorical resonance of their predicament, and the complexity of the philosophical issues each must ultimately confront." - Michael A. Morrison, University of Oklahoma

This book was reviewed in the September 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our webs
Mike McDevitt
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
If you're finding the weather too hot, the wine too tempting, strangers offering themselves sexually, or trees appearing and disappearing- fear not! It's just the indifferent but powerful cosmos trying to stop you from thinking too hard. It will do this by any means necessary, so have a gun handy to off yourself if being a smarty-smart-pants becomes TOO unbearable.

It's not paranoia if the universe is really trying to kill you.
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I did not enjoy this book a great deal while I was reading it, but it's a very good book to have read. I have thought about the concepts and the characters a lot more after finishing it than the vast majority of books, even good sci-fi. A quick read, and in my opinion a slightly unbelievable premise, but one that fosters thought. That, I think, is an excellent thing.
Leo Ferres
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a nice read. I find Russian SciFi a bit philosophical and... "inconclusive", but I guess I'm tainted by Western SciFi, where the monster/alien shows up in the end. Overall really good. Plus, I'm now up to date with the 52 books challenge of 2018!
Doug Cummings
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic chamber drama that's both frightening and funny; make sure you get the new 2014 English translation by Antonina Bouis.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
yeah, its good but hard to understand.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
José Maria
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Although the somewhat lack of dynamic in the story's progression -essentially people talking inside the same building for the whole of the duration of the book. Even the more shocking and unorthodox ones come presented as a character explaining them to one another, as something that has already happened- it's value resides on the perspective it proposes us to see from. One that declares that foundations of the universe exists unconcerned with the matrix of the human psique. One that exists for i ...more
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Because not everybody understands the events that surround themselves, especially scientists, engineers, brain-shredding people of the new age who seek the truth and try to discover something and push their ordinary life to the edge of the abyss.

If you find yourself in this book, if every single critical passage stabs directly to the society you are living in and if you are thinking inside that "There should be a reason that is above me to prevent my success in a sense, or pushing me down… I hat
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The brothers Arkady Strugatsky [Russian: Аркадий Стругацкий] and Boris Strugatsky[Russian: Борис Стругацкий] were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated through most of their careers.

Arkady Strugatsky was born 25 August 1925 in Batumi; the family later moved to Leningrad. In January 1942, Arkady and his father were evacuated from the Siege of Leningrad, but Arkady was the only su

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