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Thread: Russian Science Fiction - Recommended books?

  1. #1
    Hanna
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    Russian Science Fiction - Recommended books?

    What are the classics and latest hits of Russian science fiction?
    Are there any books with credible female characters (rare in sci-fi)
    Which books would you recommend to read in Russian, or as a translation.

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    Самое свежее и удивительное, что я читал — это Ибатуллин Роберт, "Роза и Червь". Эта книга еще не издана, существует только в электронном виде.

    Вот отзыв, с которым я полностью согласен — такой качественной научной фантастики не было уже очень давно.

    Credible female characters там тоже имеются. (Если я правильно понимаю это выражение.) Во всяком случае, Зара Янг и Гвинед Ллойд, на мой взгляд, выписаны очень достоверно.
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    Почтенный гражданин dtrq's Avatar
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    Absolute classics are A&B Strugatsky. They are Tolstoy and Dostoevksy of Soviet\Russian sci-fi. Some (especially later) works closer to "serious literature" with sci-fi elements, like Vonnegut's. Most important books are Roadside Picnic, The Doomed City, Hard To Be a God, The Ugly Swans.
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    Well, the Strugatsky brothers were writers of so called soft (social) SF (in contrast with Роза и Червь which is a brilliant example of hard SF). To the Strugatsky's books you mentioned, I'd like to add The Kid and Inhabited Island. They are absolutely must-read too.

    And if we talk about soft SF, there is yet another talented SF writer. Eugeny Lukin. In my opinion, he is much more Russian in spirit than Soviet Strugatsky. I do not want to offend anyone, the Strugatsky brothers are good SF writers too. But if one wants to read Russian SF, one definitely should read Lukin's books.

    Евгений Юрьевич, как вы пришли в фантастику? И почему — в фантастику?

    В фантастику я пришел 5 марта 1950 года. Проще говоря, родился. Долгое время жил, учился и работал, не подозревая, что живу, учусь и работаю в фантастическом мире. Слова Достоевского о том, что нет ничего фантастичнее обыденности и что истина в России имеет характер вполне фантастический, искренне считал парадоксами. Потом все кажущееся действительностью (в том числе и Советский Союз) затрещало по швам — и стало окончательно ясно, что классик не шутил. Точно так же, как лягушка видит лишь движущиеся предметы, мы прозреваем исключительно во время перемен. Потом опять слепнем. Но мне повезло. Я не только не смог срастись с нынешней небывальщиной, которую мы опять называем реальностью, — всматриваясь в нее, я понимаю, что и тот, ушедший, мир был не менее невероятен. Одна фантастика сменила другую — всего-то делов.
    Таким образом я попутно ответил и на второй ваш вопрос: некуда было больше прийти.
    Евгений Лукин в Википедии, на сайте fantlab.ru и на сайте flibusta.net.

    (I'm pretty sure I've made some grammatical mistakes in this post. Corrections are welcome. )

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    Завсегдатай Basil77's Avatar
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    Classics: Strugatsky brothers of course. My favorite is "Monday starts at Saturday". Also there are some classics from 1920s like Belyayev and Alexey Tolstoy. Also Ivan Yefremov is considered classics but his books are too boring for me. From the modern writers I like early works of Sergey Lukyanenko. I didn't like his most recent books though. Btw, Ramil translated the whole Lukyanenko NOVEL (not the best one imho) into English here at this forum:

    S. Lukyanenko. The Dreamline . Proofreaders are welcome )))
    Please, correct my mistakes, except for the cases I misspell something on purpose!

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    Иван Ефремов is one of the mainstream si-fi writers of the Soviet period. His books are not bad, just overburden with the communist ideology. For my opinion his best book is "Час быка", an anti utopian novel. Another well-known writer is Александр Казанцев with his books about an ancient civilization from the exploded planet Faeton.

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    Старший оракул
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    Kir Bulychev created a credible female character. Alisa Selezneva. Short stories are pretty good.
    Налево пойдёшь - коня потеряешь, направо пойдёшь - сам голову сложишь.
    Прямой путь не предлагать!

  8. #8
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by Basil77 View Post
    Classics: Strugatsky brothers of course. My favorite is "Monday starts at Saturday". Also there are some classics from 1920s like Belyayev and Alexey Tolstoy. Also Ivan Yefremov is considered classics but his books are too boring for me. From the modern writers I like early works of Sergey Lukyanenko. I didn't like his most recent books though. Btw, Ramil translated the whole Lukyanenko NOVEL (not the best one imho) into English here at this forum:

    S. Lukyanenko. The Dreamline . Proofreaders are welcome )))
    Super helpful, thanks! 1920s is too far back for me, I am more into newer things, say 1960s and onwards.
    Sergey Lukyanenko. I'll check out Sergey Lukyanenko. Incredible that Ramil translated that novel! What a star. Haven't seen him here for ages. Maybe he got tired of all the trolling lately.

    I think this is perfect for actually reading in Russian, or even listening to, on iPod.

    There is a book called Metro 2033 I'd like to read too. Author is an interesting person called Dimitry Glukhovsky.


    Quote Originally Posted by SergeMak View Post
    Иван Ефремов is one of the mainstream si-fi writers of the Soviet period. His books are not bad, just overburden with the communist ideology. For my opinion his best book is "Час быка", an anti utopian novel. Another well-known writer is Александр Казанцев with his books about an ancient civilization from the exploded planet Faeton.
    I'll definitely check him off and a little ideology doesn't put me off. All the American sci-fi books are full of it, so that would just be a different angle. Anti-utopian?! sounds interesting. Not sure about the planet Faeton book - sounds like it might be too deep.


    Quote Originally Posted by RedFox View Post
    Well, the Strugatsky brothers were writers of so called soft (social) SF (in contrast with Роза и Червь which is a brilliant example of hard SF). To the Strugatsky's books you mentioned, I'd like to add The Kid and Inhabited Island. They are absolutely must-read too.

    And if we talk about soft SF, there is yet another talented SF writer. Eugeny Lukin. In my opinion, he is much more Russian in spirit than Soviet Strugatsky. I do not want to offend anyone, the Strugatsky brothers are good SF writers too. But if one wants to read Russian SF, one definitely should read Lukin's books.
    Евгений Лукин в Википедии, на сайте fantlab.ru и на сайте flibusta.net.

    (I'm pretty sure I've made some grammatical mistakes in this post. Corrections are welcome. )
    Strugatskis is a must-read, I think and Lukin sounds interesting - I like the "more Russian" aspect, it sounds interesting.

    Going on the hunt for this, to put on my ipod and e-reader!

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    Александр Казанцев was an advocate of paleo-contact theories. I think he strongly believed that representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations had visited the Earth many eons ago and influenced the development of humanity. So he elaborates this theme in his books.

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    Властелин wanja's Avatar
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    Семь бед, один Reset

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Classic sci-fi is traditionally modern-problems oriented technical and social. Yes, it is not about credible characters, it is about ideas. Nowadays sci-fi usually treated as easy reading in fictional setting that makes the genre more flexible for experiments. That is what fantazy, and many contemporary Russian writers often write in both genres (sci-fi and fantasy) or even mix them up so it is hard to distinguish them. In the same mix often alternative history.

    Here some of my preferences (a bit outdated) in both genres as I don't separate in contemporary literature in random order.

    Lukyanenko is today's easy reading in sci-fi with acceptable literary quality.

    Kirill Eskov - I can recommend two books actually The Gospel of Afranius and The last ringbearer. He used scientific approach to the Gospel and Tolkien's universe and gained nice action adventure novels. The first one may be too boring if you don't know well the background.

    Parfenova - her debute trilogy contained all typical mistakes of the beginning writer but at the same time was of extreme quality and really refreshing. The books full of female emotions, that a techno&science&logic man like me was able to enjoy. Though the language is rich and intensive and can be hard to read.

    ...to be continue... maybe
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

  12. #12
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo View Post
    Classic sci-fi is traditionally modern-problems oriented technical and social. Yes, it is not about credible characters, it is about ideas. Nowadays sci-fi usually treated as easy reading in fictional setting that makes the genre more flexible for experiments. That is what fantazy, and many contemporary Russian writers often write in both genres (sci-fi and fantasy) or even mix them up so it is hard to distinguish them. In the same mix often alternative history.

    Here some of my preferences (a bit outdated) in both genres as I don't separate in contemporary literature in random order.

    Lukyanenko is today's easy reading in sci-fi with acceptable literary quality.

    Kirill Eskov - I can recommend two books actually The Gospel of Afranius and The last ringbearer. He used scientific approach to the Gospel and Tolkien's universe and gained nice action adventure novels. The first one may be too boring if you don't know well the background.

    Parfenova - her debute trilogy contained all typical mistakes of the beginning writer but at the same time was of extreme quality and really refreshing. The books full of female emotions, that a techno&science&logic man like me was able to enjoy. Though the language is rich and intensive and can be hard to read.

    ...to be continue... maybe

    Whereas I don't make a lot of sense when I am tired, and writing in a hurry, you do, lol ! That was interesting. Please continue whenever...

    Yes, probably science fiction gets dated eventually; or it becomes clear that technology moved in a different way than what the writers imagined, so the technical premise of the novel seems irrelevant. Social ideas and values. The sexism in older American science fiction is very tiresome - just have to try to ignore it to enjoy the story. Of course, it was normal at the time of publishing, and almost all the readers were men anyway.

    I know some of the older sci-fi it is literature in its own right; philosophical etc. Definitely including some Russian science-fiction.
    But it's not for me. I like the social aspects of sci-fi, the politics and the technology. The Foundation saga (Asimov) is still one of my favourite books. Asimov was unable to imagine how computing would develop though - and some aspects of the books seem very dated today.

    Same for films: Watched a an episode of "Star Trek Voyager" from the late 1990s (I believe). All the computing and communication looks ancient and very clunky!

    [off to work, more later]

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    The sexism in older American science fiction is very tiresome - just have to try to ignore it to enjoy the story.
    For me the most prominent person in old American SF is Ursula Le Guin. Not much sexim I believe - she was a feminist. Though even feminism in those times was different.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    ...
    Shumil - very sharp and exact technichal and logical descriptions. No contradictions and baby-talk in technics (especially computer technics) if you know what I mean. Though some major fails in psychology and ethics IMHO. The main character usually is too masculine... Though female characters around are able to make fun of him even if unable to resist his charisma.

    Scheglov - his Panga series is an example of sci-fi\fantazy mixture - very natural. The idea of magic describes a perfect user interface of a powerful high-tech device, doesn't it?

    Rudazov - easy reading. Travels between worlds and adventures. Particularly good in comedy situations and charachters' banters. Start with Archmage series from the beginning. Later it goes worse.

    Lazarchuk - «Иное небо» - an alternative history. Intellectual and rather complicated... Actually can't recommend reading in foreign language. But it is in my short list.

    Max Frei - a woman actually. No SF though. "
    Labyrinths of Echo" series is a Harry Potter for grown ups with a very specific view of life and philosophy, which you either adore of hate.

    Kamsha - two epic sagas in fictional medieval-to-
    renaissance-like worlds with mystics, magic and intensive eschatology. No one is completed up to now. No problems with credible female charachters as she's a woman. She's a fan of GRR Martin and her sagas resemble his one but they are way not so cruel and way more romantic.

    Bushkov - mainly known for his action but has a nice series of SF\fantasy "Svarog". A lucky idiot in a Boschian world. First three novels are readable then he sold his name to publishers and now they publish garbage by shadowwriters in that series.
    ...
    Hanna likes this.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo View Post
    ...
    Bushkov - mainly known for his action but has a nice series of SF\fantasy "Svarog". A lucky idiot in a Boschian world. First three novels are readable then he sold his name to publishers and now they publish garbage by shadowwriters in that series.
    Oh, Bushkov! I'd like to say a few words on him.
    He seems to be a graphomaniac and the most of his publications is junk and garbage. But he wrote two such excellent novels, I can't help respecting him.
    These novels are Лабиринт and Провинциальная хроника начала осени. Their genre is not SF, fantasy or action but more like a fable with profound ideas on meaning of life and what human beings are.
    I heartily recommend everyone to have a look at them. They are relatively short, so that doesn't take much time.

  16. #16
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo View Post
    For me the most prominent person in old American SF is Ursula Le Guin. Not much sexim I believe - she was a feminist. Though even feminism in those times was different.
    I LOVED the Earthsea saga as a kid. Particularly the one about the girl who was a priestess over a labyrinth. Probably read that about 5 times.
    But I've only read one adult book by her. Christmas gift, I think it was called "Playing human" or something like that. Didn't really get into it. Based on your approval that will definitely change!


  17. #17
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by it-ogo View Post
    ...
    Shumil - very sharp and exact technichal and logical descriptions. No contradictions and baby-talk in technics (especially computer technics) if you know what I mean. Though some major fails in psychology and ethics IMHO. The main character usually is too masculine... Though female characters around are able to make fun of him even if unable to resist his charisma.

    Scheglov - his Panga series is an example of sci-fi\fantazy mixture - very natural. The idea of magic describes a perfect user interface of a powerful high-tech device, doesn't it?

    Rudazov - easy reading. Travels between worlds and adventures. Particularly good in comedy situations and charachters' banters. Start with Archmage series from the beginning. Later it goes worse.

    Lazarchuk - «Иное небо» - an alternative history. Intellectual and rather complicated... Actually can't recommend reading in foreign language. But it is in my short list.

    Max Frei - a woman actually. No SF though. "
    Labyrinths of Echo" series is a Harry Potter for grown ups with a very specific view of life and philosophy, which you either adore of hate.

    Kamsha - two epic sagas in fictional medieval-to-
    renaissance-like worlds with mystics, magic and intensive eschatology. No one is completed up to now. No problems with credible female charachters as she's a woman. She's a fan of GRR Martin and her sagas resemble his one but they are way not so cruel and way more romantic.

    Bushkov - mainly known for his action but has a nice series of SF\fantasy "Svarog". A lucky idiot in a Boschian world. First three novels are readable then he sold his name to publishers and now they publish garbage by shadowwriters in that series.
    ...
    Wow, what a great summary with the hyperlinks. I think this thread may be worthy of becoming a sticky, at this rate.

    On the female character aspect. Yes, I absolutely don't need feminist heroines who kick butt and are action heroes.
    All I ask is that they have more than one brain cell and are in the book for some other purpose than a sexy distraction.

    One of the reasons I like to watch Soviet films once in a while is because they have interesting female characters of all ages. Not feminists, beauty queens or female action heroes, but regular women with an interesting story and a bit of personality. Don't know if that was deliberate, but it's very noticeable. Another reason is that I prefer a slower development of the plot, and I'm fine without brutal violence and sex scenes.
    Would be interesting to know if sci-fi written during the Soviet era has similar characteristics.

    Modern Russian sci-fi interests me more though, and anything older than 20 years is probably risking being a bit dated unless is strictly philosophical.

    The question is whether I am able to read in Russian at this point. It's one thing to skim through the odd comment on Masterrussian where I can cheat and look things up. It's quite another to read a book.
    I listen to audiobooks a lot (lets you do other things as you "read") - and I think I understand spoken Russian a bit better, possibly.

    I wonder if I'd be able to follow an audiobook? I'm on a break in my Russian studies at the moment, to be resumed next year.



    I totally forgot that Goodreads have book lists for everything. They say:



    They seem to be counting the same books multiple times in different languages ?! Polish, or something.

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    I LOVED the Earthsea saga as a kid. Particularly the one about the girl who was a priestess over a labyrinth. Probably read that about 5 times.
    But I've only read one adult book by her. Christmas gift, I think it was called "Playing human" or something like that. Didn't really get into it. Based on your approval that will definitely change!
    There is a general opinion that her best work is "The Left Hand of Darkness". On me personally the strongest influence had "City of illusions". Her books are very poetic and in the same time they discuss some problems that are or can become actual - that's what makes her books classic SF.

    In the google list - yes, there are some Polish translations and few duplicates.

    In the list:
    Strugatsky - the best of Soviet SF. Good literary quality though I don't remember women among their central heroes.
    Lukyanenko - the most popular post-soviet SF.
    Dyachenko (actualy married co-authors) - reputation of intellectual writing but I find them pretentious rather than meaningful.
    Bulychov - Soviet times. I found him not enough serious mostly.
    "METRO" series - Postapocalipsis. I didn't read.

    Small offtopic. For me the best SF writer forever and ever is Polish Stanislaw Lem. He's not only the brilliant writer but also a futurologist. His main work in futurology Summa Technologiae issued in 1964 was a Bible of Soviet technichal intelligentsia and I believe it is not obsolete in a single letter even now. In 2013 it finally got the first English edition:

    • Lem, Stanisław (2013). Summa technologiae. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816675767.
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    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedFox View Post
    Well, the Strugatsky brothers were writers of so called soft (social) SF (in contrast with Роза и Червь which is a brilliant example of hard SF).
    ...
    And if we talk about soft SF...
    Hmmm. To me, the term "soft science-fiction" in English often implies a "space opera" in which faster-than-light spaceships, time travel, telekinesis, and other very unlikely things are simply taken as real and scientifically explainable (i.e., non-magical), though without any attempt to explain how they actually work. Both Star Trek and Star Wars could be considered "soft" in this sense. But Star Trek, which frequently discussed 20th-century problems like racism and the Cold War in allegorical terms, could also be called "soft" in the "social" sense.

    In contrast, Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress describes in believable and realistic terms the technical possibility of using a rail-gun catapult to launch cargo from the Earth to the Moon, without using "magical" techno-babble. For this reason the novel is often regarded as exemplifying "hard" science fiction. (Of course, Heinlein certainly gets some things quite wrong -- he assumes that photo-realistic CGI video doesn't get invented until around 2075, a time when the Moon already has several cities and a permanent population of 3 or 4 million humans!) On the other hand, to the extent that it discusses libertarian theory and male/female sex roles, TMiaHM is "soft social" sci-fi.

    The en.wikipedia article about "soft science fiction", by the way, gives Orwell's 1984 as an example of "social" sci-fi, and Čapek's R.U.R. as a example of sci-fi that's "soft" in the sense that the robots might as well be magical golems.
    Hanna likes this.
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

  20. #20
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post
    a rail-gun catapult to launch cargo from the Earth to the Moon, without using "magical" techno-babble. For this reason the novel is often regarded as exemplifying "hard" science fiction.
    I remember those scenes from the book and I thought it was one of the silliest aspects of that book. Can anyone explain how that is scientific?


    My fave Heinlein book is a kids adventure about two boys in a boarding school on Mars, who outsmart an evil corporation with the help of ancient Martians. Forgotten the name. Too bad it's totally unrealistic based on what's now known about the geology of Mars. No canals to skate on, and no exotic plants.
    Love everything about Mars though - Red Mars series was fantastic, but gosh the amount of bizarre bias about Russians and other nationalities.

    I realise that warp speed etc has no scientific basis, but my smart phone is probably on par with the pads from Star Trek Voyager!

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