Modern Russian satire
Release Date: OUT NOW!
480 pages | Hardback/ paperback/ ebook Author: Victor Pelevin Publisher: Gollancz
During the time of the
Soviet Union, science fiction was a favoured genre for writers to obliquely criticise the regime without censure. Those days have not quite returned under Putin, but Snuff performs a similar job, artfully satirising modern Russia’s divided society and its strange relationship with the truth.
Damilola Karpov is a pilot of a hybrid media/ military drone who lives in the flying city of Byzantion. “Big Byz” is anchored forever over the capital of Urkaina, a miserable land in a climate- changed Siberia. Karpov’s role is to simultaneously start ritualised wars with the “Orks” of Urkaine and report on them. Between times, he relaxes with his sex robot Kaya – a realistic “rubber woman” whose personality settings he’s tinkered with to make her act as realistically as possible. These two strands are central to the novel’s discourse on the nature of truth, and how we con ourselves as much as the state does as to what that actually means.
A sort of brilliantly inverted Brave New World, this is a quintessentially Russian novel populated by characters who possess redeeming features, but who are mostly terrible human beings. There are wry observations on the human condition in every paragraph, drenched in irony. It’s a little too dense at times, the balance between philosophy and plot not quite perfect, but otherwise this is a great example of satirical SF, and expertly translated too. Guy Haley