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Definitely Maybe

(Best of Soviet SF)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,468 ratings  ·  309 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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Nicolas There's a new and quite affordable edition published by Penguin as One Billion Years to the End of the World…moreThere's a new and quite affordable edition published by Penguin as One Billion Years to the End of the World(less)

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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,468 ratings  ·  309 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
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).
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
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?!
Cavanşir Gadimov
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A different kind of SF. Less action more of thinkings.

My review:
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
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
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.
Aug 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Researchers of all kinds are familiar with the feeling that the world is conspiring against them. What if it was?

As in other Strugatsky books, every character is a ranter, everyone is cowardly and brave, funny and grave, smart and dumb. The distinctive part of their scifi is it being grotty. it has stains.

Malianov is a brilliant astrophysicist, but he's in thrall to Vecherovsky, an obscure professor of everything consulted by physicists, sociologists, state spooks, and geneticists. The others gi
Tony DeHaan
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely little book and quite funny at times. The astrophysicist Dmitri Malianov is constantly on the verge of a breakthrough in his research, but he is constantly interrupted by telephone calls, delivery men and a woman who wants to move in with him. His neighbour, another scientist, gets killed, and there is talk of extra-terrestrial life... It's also a tale of "Big Brother is watching you"! ...more
Sep 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was weird.

I do like the idea of a homeostatic universe, though. It would explain a lot. Pair this up with the Novikov self-consistency principle and you've got both ends of time's arrow covered :)
Ira Therebel
In this short novel several scientists get somebody to disturb their life so that they don't continue with the work they are doing. Written in the wonderful Strugatsky style with a lot of humor. This time it has less sci fi and fantasy in it and is more obviously a satire of a world where one has to be careful with the research or one can get in trouble. We don't get any real proof that it is indeed aliens who are after them. Most of the book is just them talking to each other trying to figure o ...more
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
Kshitij Khandelwal
Intense, but the plot lacked depth. Bought the book only because the cover was pretty. Turned out to be better than expected.
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
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! ...more
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A deft little novel, whose narrative is quick and keen. I interpreted it as a commentary on academic integrity. The Strugatsky brothers are very entertaining and unique writers. Reading this and Roadside Picnic has made me want more.
Keith Davis
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Russian astrophysicist experiences a series of improbable interruptions to his work culminating in accusations and threats against himself and his family. He discovers that many of his colleagues have also been forced to stop their scientific work by a mix of threats and bribes. Suggested explanations include secret conspiracies, an alien supercivilization trying to suppress human advancement, or the homeostatic universe itself trying to prevent change caused by advanced knowledge. In the end ...more
Aug 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
4 April 2009 - ****. The Strugatsky brothers were the most important Russian science fiction writers of the Soviet era, and they remain immensely popular in that part of the world today. Unfortunately, here in the US, they have never really achieved the recognition I think they deserve.

In this 1976 novel (translated to English in 1978), some minor scientists who happen to live in the same apartment building find their ability to work disrupted by a piling up of fortunes and misfortunes beyond co
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
Aug 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More harder to grasp than I thought. But definitely worth it. Good read if you like sci-fi with political undertones. Its also surprisingly funny and beautiful at some parts.
People looking for depth in character and story line don't read it. Most of the book is very ambiguous.
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasty
Funny, if still a product of its time: ...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
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it
At times humorous, always insightful, simple yet inventive use of language. Explores the question of humanity's place in the universe and suggests a possible reason why humans seem to be alone. A companion piece to Roadside Picnic, looking at the question from a different angle. ...more
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,
It's a hot summer and strange things are happening in Leningrad. A handful of scientists are confronted with threats to stop their research. Every threat is individually targetted. The father is threatened with getting jailed and the loss of his wife and son, the womanizer is threatened by his joint former affairs, the egomaniac is threatened with the representation of a "super-civilization". People are disappearing without a trace. All scientists somehow are related to another seemingly superio ...more
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
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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 s

Other books in the series

Best of Soviet SF (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Far Rainbow / The Second Invasion from Mars
  • Roadside Picnic / Tale of the Troika
  • The Ugly Swans
  • The Unman / Kovrigin's Chronicles
  • New Soviet Science Fiction
  • Space Apprentice (MacMillan's Best of Soviet science fiction)
  • Professor Dowell's Head
  • The Uncertainty Principle
  • Noon: 22nd Century
  • World's Spring

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