John Jr.'s Reviews > Far Rainbow / The Second Invasion from Mars

Far Rainbow / The Second Invasion from Mars by Arkady Strugatsky
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's review
Sep 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: sf
Recommended for: Charles Dee Mitchell, J. S.

In a blurb praising another of their novels on the back cover of this book, Ursula K. Le Guin describes the Strugatsky brothers as combining Gogol and Chekhov. You can find Gogol the satirist and Chekhov the humanist in the two novelettes contained here, and pretty evenly divided too.

In Far Rainbow, a calamity is spreading across the planet Rainbow, caused by a science experiment that’s gotten out of control. The science doesn’t really matter; it's important only insofar as any disruption in human affairs that threatens to destroy lives will be important. What matters to the Strugatskys is how everyone reacts; they've taken their characters to a point of extremity to see what they do, and the results are as recognizable as any real-life disaster story you'll read or see, reported with compassion but with no trace of the excess sentiment, attempt at uplift, or glossing over of selfishness and desperation that often mars such accounts.

As for The Second Invasion from Mars, all you really need to know is the title, providing you remember from H. G. Wells that the first invasion from Mars didn’t turn out well for the Martians. Though the tone here is brightly mordant and ironic, the focus again is on the characters. There aren’t more weapons in the second invasion (except perhaps of a psychological kind); there is more wit, and unwitting humor in the characters. This story was deliciously funny when I first read it, in Mexico in 1980--the discovery of a friend who had found it in a British edition--and it’s still deliciously funny. Because lately I incline more to Gogol than to Chekhov, it's my favorite of the two tales, but I'm not sure it's really any better.

Possibly the world abounds in high-quality science fiction that’s not well known in America or even currently in print. Stanislaw Lem's work would be my first example. This book gives further evidence.
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