Alright, I'm going to complain about this book, yo, because it's so very, very frustrating.
On its face, it sounds like a great idea. Back in the day, Stalin appropriated some sci-fi writers in the Soviet Union to come up with an enemy the Soviet people can rally behind. He believes that the capitalist United States will fall within a few years and wants to have something that will unite the people. Years later, the alien threat the writers came up with seem to be real. This book is supposed to be a memoir from one of the writers.
I can't even begin to organize my problems with this book into any cohesive statement - so let's just run with it, ok?
First off: I'm an American without any cultural knowledge of Soviet/Russia, so I might be wrong about a lot of stuff. I often am.
Most of this book is Soviet/Russians are silly/dumb/stupid lullerskates. There are all kinds of overly cynical/satirical/"funny" things going on with the Soviets and the things they say. We're constantly being told that characters are funny (when they're not) or ironic (when they're not), and in general there's this prevalent attitude of how Stupid/Silly the Soviets are. I feel like I was reading propaganda from the Cold War. I felt like it was demeaning the Soviet/Russian people/culture. And I was uncomfortable with it. I could not take the novel seriously. I wanted to apologize as a Westerner for this book.
There's this annoying (and unlikeable) character who keeps trying to tell everyone that he has Asperger's. And the writer clearly has no idea what that disorder encompasses, because basically? That character is OCD. That's not the same thing (dear Author: Wikipedia - try it some time). And of course, the main American in the novel was a woman and she was fat (and a scientologist, and I don't even know where the author was going with that at all). So fat that she was fat, yo. She was a running joke. For heaven's sake, it did become a joke when she was so fat that getting stabbed didn't hurt her, because, you know - FAT . And the smoking and the drinking and the worries. The interrogation and the detainee's rights. It just felt out of place and time.
The constant attitude about science fiction in this book just killed me. The constant "sly" defense of sci-fi was just annoying. Very annoying.
I kept getting so frustrated with the book. I don't know what the author was up to, but yeah, Soviet Russia is a horrible joke, Americans are fat, and everyone is (not) funny and (not) ironic and modern, even though this was the 80s. By the time we get to Chernobyl, I was tired and dreading what would happen next because I felt like the rest of the book was so tasteless.
If this book concentrated less on the dogging of Soviets/Russians and trying to be terribly clever, or maybe had just taken place somewhere else, I think it could have been decent.
And by the way, a tibia is in the leg, not the arm (that
I didn't have to look up). Next time, author, just keep Wikipedia open.