Friday, July 15, 2016

When sci-fi comes true

Combine Joseph Heller dialogue with a Kurt Vonnegut Jr. plot and you might get something like Adam Roberts's brilliant 2009 novel Yellow Blue Tibia.

Funnier than any story about an alien invasion, nuclear disaster and KGB assassins has any right to be, the novel starts wacky and keeps getting wackier. It begins after the close of World War II when Stalin gathers together some of the best Soviet science fiction writers and orders them to come up with a plot about an invasion from outer space. They concoct a wild story about "radiation aliens" who attack the Ukraine. Stalin likes it, files it away and swears them all to secrecy.

Years later during the winter of 1985-86, one of those writers, Konstantin Skvorecky, now an old man who works as a translator, is approached by another survivor from that strange writing project and told that their plot is all coming true. The aliens have invaded exactly as they described in their story.

Soon, pursued by the KGB, Skvorecky is taking a wild taxi ride to the Chernobyl nuclear plant with a former nuclear scientist, now a cab driver with an extreme fear of being touched by another man, and a fat American woman, a Scientologist, with whom he falls in love. They are trying to prevent the disaster they fear is coming before the KGB can catch up with them.

So is there an alien invasion or not? And is this novel science fiction or not? One must read to the end to find the answers.

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