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By Adam Roberts | November 5, 2007
Categories: Book News

An unusually tough and tiring first half of term has left me fairly worn out.††Still,†I've been trying to push on in the writing of†a new novel.† Since this is set in the Soviet Union I†had†given it†the working title Yellow Blue Tibia, something I chose on the understanding (which I derived from Nabokov, no less) that this English phrase, spoken aloud with the right roll from syllable to syllable, was equivalent to the Russian for 'I Love You'.† However, my editor's multi-talented wife,†a woman†who understands many things better than I†do, Russian not least, reports that the phrase means no such thing in Russkiy yazyk.† I've been misinformed. †So I've ditched that, and have been writing under the much less appealing working†name Russian Novel.† This morning, however, I†was cudgelling my brain for alternatives.† At the moment I'm toying with this as a title:† War and War.

What do you reckon?

I've†obtained a Teach Yourself Russian book-plus-CD, and am starting, in a rough-and-ready way, to acquire a little of this glorious language.† At the moment I'm a little bogged down, on p.7, in a simulated Customs check at Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport, where a variety of very basic pieces of information†are being conveyed between a traveller and a custom's official.† But give me time.

In other news, some more reviews of Splinter.† One†from Dreamwatch Total Sci Fi's Paul Simpson:

The survivor of a global catastrophe has to come to terms with a very different outlook on lifeÖ A major part of the story is about his growing up, and realising that the world does not revolve around him Ė even the smaller splinter of the planet on which he finds himself when some terrible event splits Earth into numerous planetoids which miraculously manage to maintain an atmosphere. Roberts very effectively takes you inside Sevradacís head, complete with its Freudian slips, loosely remembered pieces of jingles and nursery rhymes and total self-absorption...Itís also an examination of the benefits of being part of a community rather than standing out as an individual, and the trauma when you realise that you have become the Ďadultí part of a family relationship. We only see the others around Sevradac through his eyes, but can sense their desire to include him until he pushes them away once too often - only eventually to find something that will accept him no matter what... Stylistically Splinter is an unusual novel, with its three sections written in past, present and future tenses respectively, and it's one that stays with you long after youíve finished it.

And Peter Loftus in Interzone issue #212:†"Splinter is a re-imagining of a little-known Jules Verne novel, Off on a Comet. Stylistically, the first part of Splinter calls de Lillo and Auster to mind. The writing is crisp, incisive and assured... full marks to Roberts for not playing it safe... devotees of literary sf will find much to love here..."

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4 Comments to-date;

4 Responses to “November”

  1. Spare Says:
    November 8th, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Surely you remember the phrases from Nick Leader's Russian lessons - "Grass for tea" instead of zdrazvitiya (that doesn't look right without Cyrillic characters on my keyboard) for Hello. Or the schoolboy favourite word for hat being shapka - but wanka in Cyrillic.

  2. AdamR Says:
    November 9th, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Spare, how wonderful to hear from you; even if what I'm hearing is 'wanka'. But you're forgetting that only the smart kids (like you) at the Langton did Russian; I did Spanish for a year. Not that I can remember any of that either. Still, what you say is very useful. Grassfortea, indeed.

  3. John Toon Says:
    November 15th, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Zdrass't'ye (or, if you prefer, privyet),

    Why not throw in a talented barman and call it "The Master of Margaritas"? Ho, ho.

    Or, if I might suggest, "Normalno", since that's such a defining word of Soviet Russia. ("How are you doing?" "Normally" - to say "Well" would be to raise suspicion that you're beating the system, and to say "Badly" would be to suggest that there's something wrong, which could of course never happen under Soviet rule.)

  4. AdamR Says:
    November 21st, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    John; thanks for those suggestions. I now discover that's there's nothing wrong with the phrase Yellow Blue Tibia after all; that it does indeed constitute perfectly reasonable Russian. So I'm going to stick with that for the title. But I'll stash Normalno away; perhaps for the sequel--assuming I write a sequel, something which will depend upon just how enormous an international bestseller the original becomes. Ahem.