April 21, 2010
Yellow Blue Tibia - Adam Roberts
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts has made both the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the shortlist for the BSFA Award this year.
A quick mention for the design of the book, which is great. The bold Soviet design is mixed with a pseudo aging look,which wraps around the front and back cover. Very funky and cool.
In the first chapter it is 1940s USSR, post-war, and Stalin calls together a collective of Science Fiction writers to craft the ultimate story of alien invasion. From the start it feels slippery and odd, and I was continually wondering whether I was being told the truth. There's no action as such but I found it intriguing and compelling.
After the first chapter the story switches to years later, the 1980s. The USSR is changing, but there are many who don't want it to change, like the KGB. And then there are the rumours of alien invasion, an alien invasion that sounds remarkably like the one concocted by the Science Fiction writers who were sent away and told to forget about it.
Svorecky was one of those writers, and after a brief synopsis of the life of our protagonist, we pick up the plot. A plot which stumbles into a strange KGB encounter and some Scientologist Americans.
The tone changes in the novel from the first chapter, it moves slowly from intriguingly sinister to farce. Much of the farce was too much for me, like extremely bad episodes of Fawlty Towers: irritating. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but I never laughed once.
I did, for much of the novel, wonder whether it was actually Science Fiction, or just about Science Fiction. At times it felt as if the novel was written specifically for Science Fiction fans, with a discussion of what it meant to read and write and think about SF. The last third of the book however picks up again, returns to the plot and begins to turn on the proper Science Fiction. Leaving everything open to discussion at the end.
Normally I don't like alternative history novels, because I never feel as if I know enough history to actually get the cleverness. Yellow Blue Tibia never made me feel like that, I never felt bewildered or like I was missing a joke. I did however wonder whether it was actually alternate history or not.
It's an interesting novel, I can see why it's been nominated for awards, there's a lot to discuss and a lot to think about. Even the bits I didn't like I want to talk about why I didn't like them. It's also a novel that feels quite fresh to me, a little bit different from everything else around at the moment.
I recommend reading it.