Book Review: Beetle in the Anthill by Brothers Strugatsky
A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past, present, and on a thorough understanding of nature and significance of scientific method.— Robert A Heinlein
That kind of science fiction has fascinated people for centuries. From 17th and Gulliver's travels all the way to this day. Science fiction has something that lets us dream about endless possibilities.
But it also warns us about the same or some other possibilities. It has to be said that science fiction is the most suitable genre for criticizing human condition. If you want to avoid ruffling any feathers, that is. Doris Lessing said it best:
What they didn't realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time.
Maxim Kammerer is progressor with COMCON-2. The story is set in 2178. He is assigned to the case of a missing man. Lav Abakin went missing after returning from assignment on some obscure little planet. Their stories are inexplicably linked as they search for answers.
This novel belongs to their Noon Universe. And it's a second part of a trilogy about Maxim Kammerer. This novel was published in 1979, but, it is as relevant as ever. The exact order of this trilogy is:
- Prisoner of Power
- Beetle in the Anthill
- The Time Wanderers.
Each one of them can be read separately. Like it happened in my case. And I usually don't like reading novels out of their order because of a slight case of OCD. But I read these novels in peculiar order, simply because nobody here had any idea that this is part of the series. I first read the first part, then the third, and finally this one. And I must say it didn't ruin anything for me. Because the stories aren't linked on a great scale.
The authors lead us into a story without any struggle at all, and with the easiness of the masters. The words flow on the pages before us.
Kammerers search is intertwined with flashbacks of Abakins adventures. Of course, before he went missing. Allowing us the opportunity to meet both characters intimately.
Brothers are known for their criticism of the communist government in their works. But, I think they didn't just criticize that government. But they actually criticized the men's search and drunkenness with power. And just how far can search for power take people.
They are fantastic readers of the human soul, and that's obvious in this novel. Will we, with all our technological advancements, find the cure for the fallacy of human condition. The authors make you ask yourself will we ever find an escape from them.
In this novel that fallacy is fear. Fear of everything that is different from us and our understanding. Will that fear stay with us for as long as the human race exists, or will we learn to suppress it. And that becomes the focal point by the end of the novel.
With this novel the authors make us ask some rather uncomfortable questions. Without really giving us any answers, or more correctly, they leave that answer to the reader.
This novel is a beautifully written story that will leave you emotionally crippled afterward. If you are looking for a philosophical novel that will make you think, this novel is for you. It shows best why are the brothers Strugatsky considered masters of science fiction.
© 2020 LJ Milan