Milhent (milhent) wrote in glimpseatmyday,

Book Review: Space Apprentices by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

I never had to write a book review before, so I am actually not sure what to write. I am going by others example here.

At first I had a different book planned, as I was reading it and was close to the end. But then I went over to parents to cat-sit while they are on dacha. And there I dug out this set of books and stayed up too long reading them.

It is an old photocopied set of books, back from Soviet time when they were next to impossible to buy. So they were going around as a set of negatives that anyone could print for themselves. And so my father did and then bound them into a nice set. I am not going to let him throw them out just because you can buy a real book now.

Synopsis: The story is a part of "Noon: XXII century" universe, which is a science fiction of Communistic future. In this particular story Communism is winning but not won completely yet and at some parts of the story heroes run into capitalistic moments.
The story describes a journey of Yuri Borodin, a young space welder. He had missed the spaceship that was to transport him to his new work site on a Saturn moon, but was lucky to catch attention and get a ride as an intern on a ship taking a Chief Inspector Yurkovsky on an inspection around planets. Crew of said sheep are all old friends and take Yuri as a part of their team and he gets a chance to see all different aspects of Solar system colonization - from scientists who do not care about bad living conditions as long as they can work, to capitalistic space miners who try to get as much money as they can while mining license lasts, killing themselves with bad work conditions, to greedy chief researcher who got all people on his station almost fighting just to be able to co-author their research. Travel ends in tragedy - at the last stop where Yura must leave the ship, Yurkovsky joins a research flight and is killed in an accident right after making a great discovery.

Review: I knew this book and whole Noon series from my childhood and didn't re-read it in a long while. I think last time I picked up any of those books wan in my early twenties and by then I knew them so much that it wasn't interesting to read them. So it was quite a surprise to read them now. Back then I read them as pure science fiction - an exploration of how future could be, space adventures and heroism, alien artifacts and people's fear when they act stupid with said artifacts. And obligatory digs at capitalism that I skipped, thinking that they were there because it was 1960th, you had to have them to pass censure. that was one of the reasons I picked that book as an evening read - I know it backwards and can skip parts without getting lost.
But I found that my perception of the book changed drastically. Yes, it is a science fiction and there is space and heroism and artifacts. But the book is not about them. And I think that almost all of the books in series are not about them. Those books are about people first and foremost. Is communism right for all people? Because while there are those who give everything and more to get results, there are also the ones who are willing to give only enough to have a comfortable life. And does this really mean that they are wrong, that they don't want to devote all their life to work? And at the same time, is it right to willingly risk your own health to get a step closer to discovery? What is more important to future - those possible discoveries or rising children? And those a just few of the questions from what really is a rather small novel.

My opinion: I liked this series back then for one reason but found some parts of later works very hard to read and understand. Now I want to re-read them all to see what new facets I will see. I don't know if I am willing to recommend it, because is after all a Soviet fiction with all its propaganda, but other than that it is a very interesting book, for many reasons.

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