Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Little Red Men

I realize I've been somewhat silent on the Zombie Summer Reading front, but that's because....well....I been busy, what with the research, the writing, the statistics tutoring, and the re-learning how to play the piano.

But that ends today, because what I have to show you is so incredibly awesome that I could keep its awesome secret no longer.

(See? Words are failing me.)

Three words, comrades: Bolshevik Science Fiction.

Alexander Bogdanov's Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia was first published in 1908, republished a few times up until the late twenties, and then fell off the map for a while. The first English translation appeared in the early Eighties, and the edition I found also contains a prequel story and an introductory essay on "Fantasy and Revolution". So basically what we have here is an embarrassment of riches, only redistributed.

As it happens, Martian society is quite a bit older than Earth society, and consequently it's already gone through the stages of history that we Earthlings are mired in, and the Martian proletariat has triumphed and created a collectivist utopia among the canals. The novel follows the adventures of the most progressive Bolshevik in Russia, who's abducted and taken to Mars to be shown the social future, as it were, so that he can eventually act as an ambassador between the worlds.

It's actually a very readable tale, apart from its value as a historical artifact. Red Star shares a lot with classic sci-fi tales like The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which our baser human instincts are pitted against our desire to advance as a society, only with a Marxist (not Leninist or Stalinist) twist. It reads like The Communist Manifesto, only with spaceships.

There's a lot more I could say about this book, which is both endearingly dogged in its celebration of the collective good over the wants of the individual and surprisingly clear-eyed about the kinds of problems likely to arise in such a society. But instead, I'll just leave you with this:

Communist Martians.


1 comment:

Comrade Dave said...

It's interesting in that it was published nearly a decade before the "final" communist revolution in Russia (though it may have been fanned by the 1905 uprising). It also seems to stick closer to the actual Marxist version than the Leninist variety that won out in 1917. Typical results for a rush job!

Russian/Soviet sci-fi is interesting stuff. Check out the works of Mikhail Bulgakov, if you haven't already; particularly "The Master and Margarita." It's got the devil in it, and a cat that's bigger than Widget.