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Prime Far Rainbow. The Second Invasion from MarsAuthor Arkady Strugatsky –

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10 thoughts on “Far Rainbow. The Second Invasion from Mars

  1. says:

    5 stars for Far Rainbow; still uncertain where I'd place The Second Invasion from Mars.

    Far Rainbow is my favorite kind of Strugatsky: bizarre physics, incredible characters, a rich and surprising plot, and (akin to PKD) an inability to measure or understand the powerful events sweeping the characters along.. (Personal note: my favorite character, Leonid, gave me words I will strive to live by: (paraphrased) "In over a hundred years of life, I've never met an unpleasant person".)

    (PKD versus Strugatsky note, since these are the only two author teams (well, single author and pair of authors) who can capture that amazing quality of real life, where you never really know anything: at any moment you are working with fairly basic models built from past events; if something really wild turns up, you are just probing in the dark, nothing works, what can you do? Anyway, with PKD, the characters involved in the catastrophe are often either weak-willed and sort of buffeted around, try to wing it; or they are egomaniacs trying to control everything, with extreme recklessness. With strugatsky, though, one also encounters competent, humble characters who, while unable to tame these beasts, are able to restore some local amount of sanity, and act as guideposts to everyone else (and the reader). In Far Rainbow, there were Leonid and Camill. If I want to get really meta, it almost seems that PKD characters are typically very selfish, which is not the case with Strugatsky..? I'm simplifying vastly but the basic feel I get from PKD is "we are screwed in the face of this", whereas from Strugatsky it is "this is amazing, we can try to work with it..".)

    The Second Invasion from Mars is the kind of Strugatsky which I have trouble with, where satirizing soviet rule is the focus. Of course, it was still made interesting; it is not clear until the last paragraphs of the book whether Martians are involved, or if (as the narrator discusses) it's just a code name for a group performing a coup, and all other strange occurrences are due to rumors and inebriation (either way, it seems that the 1917 communist takeover was The First Invasion from Mars). The choice of perspective (a very old retired man) brings many things to attention which are rather crucial to the message (an effective takeover immediately placates the masses with basic things like bread & beer). Neat story, although not really my sort of thing..

  2. says:

    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.

  3. says:

    The Far Rainbow is a classic Strugatsky book, full of frightening philosophic questions, complicated physics and complex characters. Although nothing could ever outreach their masterpiece “Roadside picknick”, The Far Rainbow is another brilliant example of Strugatsky’s humanism and understanding of our world.

    Daruga, a far planet in the Solar system, has been transformed to a playground of extremely unpredictable physical experiments. Science is the most honest attempt of mankind to understand the universe we live in but it’s also our ego that drives us ahead. The line between these two forces is thin and sometimes costs the existence of entire worlds.

    What fascinates me the most, however, is the open end of this dramatic story – so much open as inevitable at the same time. We cannot change the tragic destiny of Daruga but maybe we can write our future differently.

  4. says:

    3-1/2. Maybe 4; this is one I'm going to have to think about for awhile.

  5. says:

    Both of these short novels are delightful. The Strugatskys have a real gift for writing thought-provoking stories that are also entertaining.

  6. says:

    Matus was right, the first story was interesting and the second story was kind of weird. Even now, ruminating on the second story, I'm not quite sure what happened. Far Rainbow was intriguing, and I wish they had said a little more about the experiments, but enough was said that you could suspend disbelief and go with it, I think.

  7. says:

    Rating 3/5 for "The Second Invasion from Mars"

  8. says:

    Far Rainbow is outstanding in its heartbreaking simplicity.