By Adam Roberts | March 9, 2009
Categories: Book News
Blue Tibia is in some ways a less adventurous novel [than Swiftly]: structurally and stylistically, it plays far fewer games with one’s expectations, and stretches the form much less. Nevertheless, it is a very smart -- and often very funny -- yarn. ... Ultimately, then, this is a novel at home with the proliferation of quantum theory, interested in the idea that every event “happens in more than one way [...] spreading into a complex delta-basin of alternate realities.” ... [But] with its humour and intelligence, Yellow Blue Tibia is no precious, wordy text book. It is, and this with some élan, a wryly eloquent -- and at times deeply allusive -- work about the human imagination. Roberts just gets better and better.
Two lines, not none, on the Strange Horizon: Michael Froggatt's line (that he quite likes bits of the book, but thinks it overall 'rather less than the sum of its parts, although some of those parts are, individually, strikingly written, entertaining and thought-provoking'); and Abigail Nussbaum's line (she identifies both Bulgakovishness and irony in the novel, though she thinks the second of these veers into cynicism, and ends unable to judge: 'It's traditional for reviews to make at least some vague gesture at an evaluation of their subject—is this book good, and what readers are likely to find it enjoyable? Yellow Blue Tibia has proven somewhat problematic on that front.' To have baffled a reviewer as sharp and clever as Nussbaum is an achievement in which I can take, I think, a perverse kind of pride).
Yellow Blue Tibia opens with a group of science-fiction writers summoned for a meeting with Stalin in 1946. The Soviet leader, certain that America will fall within five years, is seeking a new enemy against which the people can unite to preserve the revolutionary vigour of communism. If this enemy is other than human, it will be possible to achieve the desired “dialectical synthesis: a fully peaceful world that is simultaneously united in a great patriotic war”.
Forty years later one surviving writer encounters another, who tells him that the scenario they invented, of “radiation aliens” attacking Ukraine, is starting to come true. The latest novel by the astonishingly inventive Adam Roberts is presented as Konstantin Skvorecky's memoir of the alien invasion of 1986. If you wonder why you don't remember the invasion, it explains everything.
Skvorecky is a great creation, comic and moving. His voice - deadpan, wry and convincingly Russian - is the best thing about this engaging, unusual novel, one of the best of the year.
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