DEFINITELY MAYBE by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

The Strugatsky brothers were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated through most of their careers.   They were arguably  the greatest science fiction writers of the Soviet era: their books were intellectually provocative and riotously funny, full of boldly imagined scenarios and veiled—but clear—social criticism.

Definitely Maybe tells the story of astrophysicist Dmitri Malianov, who has sent his wife and son off to her mother’s house in Odessa so that he can work, free from distractions, on the project he’s sure will win him the Nobel Prize.

But he’d have an easier time making progress if he wasn’t being interrupted all the time: First, it’s the unexpected delivery of a crate of vodka and caviar. Then a beautiful young woman in an unnervingly short skirt shows up at his door. Then several of his friends—also scientists—drop by, saying they all felt they were on the verge of a major discovery when they got . . . distracted . . .
Is there an ominous force that doesn’t want knowledge to progress? Or could it be something more . . . natural?

Told in the form of diary excerpts, it is fragments of the attempts of various scientists to achieve their breakthrough ideas, but just who or what is preventing them is unclear to all.  Could it be ……. aliens?  hahaha

Not quite as funny as Roadside Picnic, which posits the debris and trash left behind by alien sightseers, but Definitely Maybe is still pretty clever, nonetheless.  The Strugatsky books give the reader a lot of questions, and dang little in the way of answers, suggesting that we are simply a clueless species who don’t know what questions to ask, let alone any of the answers.  I talked about Roadside Picnic here.

 

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