Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Snail on the Slope by Arkady and Boris Strugatky (1980)

This novel has been very hard to find in the US due, apparently, to most of the original edition being destroyed by the Publisher due to the blurb about the authors garnering the displeasure of the Soviet Authorities.

This novel is, in effect, two novels.

The first is a kafkaesque story about a young man named Pepper being inable to escape the bureacratic organisation that keeps him in place, nor be able to go into the mysterious forest, which was the reason he had signed up with the Directorate to begin with.

The other deals with the strange, mysterious forest, among confused natives who love to speak in long, run on sentences and change their mind at least three or four times in the same sentence, focusing on Kandid, who crashlanded in the forest several years ago and had been trying to get to the Directorate ever since.

And this is sadly the novel's biggest problem. Both stories work on their own, and each switch is jarring and forcing one to re-acquaint themselves with the setting. The plots go on and on, bringing up things like sentient machines that no one is allowed to see and thus must look for blindfolded, an invisible Director whom Pepper can never manage to be able to talk to, entire forest villages absorbed by mushrooms, we never get a solution to any of it. Perhaps in Pepper's story, leaving us without an explanation would be thematically fitting, but Kandid's story was constantly building up new inexplicable occurrences happening in the forest, only for them to never be explained. Worst, despite Pepper wanting to desperately get into the forest and Kandid being in the forest and trying to get back to the biostation, the same one Pepper goes to get paid at at one point, the two plotlines never converge and the two never meet.

These two faults make me a bit unsatisfied with the conclusion to this otherwise very fascinating book.

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