Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Book I Read: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

A great book on my shelf next to my Sippy Bird and a photo of my Great Grandma Pierce.

One of my New Years resolutions is to watch less TV and read more. I'm already a pretty avid bookworm, but I was telling Tim that it would be fun to write down all the titles that I've read throughout the year, and he suggested I try to blog about them. So here we are. This is actually the second book I finished - the first being Johnny Marr's Set The Boy Free. On January 20th our resident Morrissey aficionado Rachael Hanel will be joining us on the morning show to discuss Marr's autobiography and play some great music. Be sure to set the alarm and tune in for it - you can never get enough music geeks geeking out over their favorite bands! But now it's time to talk Soviet Science Fiction.

I was told a long time ago to read more Russian novelists, and since then I've read most of Nabakov's books and some heavy hitters like Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn. The last few years I have read all of the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. These books detail a world of vampires, witches, shapeshifters and magicians that exists among our world and a realm called the Gloom. I thoroughly enjoyed dipping my toes into Soviet Sy-fy, and so when I came across some reviews of the brothers Strugatsky I jumped in and got three of their books. The Dead Mountaineer's Inn is the first one I picked up.

Boris and Arkady Strugatsky are the cream of the crop when it comes to Soviet era science fiction. They have even had an asteroid named after them. They started writing together in the 1950's and The Dead Mountaineers Inn, or Inspector Glebsky's Puzzle as it is also called came out in 1970.  I began reading this book and at first I thought that maybe this was a book outside of the science fiction genre. It starts with the introduction of our main character, Inspector Glebsky who is on holiday alone in the mountains. He is burnt out on life, work and family and is hoping to distract himself with cross country skiing, reading and a drink or two. Honestly, the beginning of this book is like reading the equivalent of Murder on The Orient Express, Murder By Death, or Clue. There is a large cast of characters we get to know one by one, all of them eccentric beyond belief. The setting is remote, full of mystery and the proprietor is of the opinion that his establishment is routinely being haunted by a visitor who went off to hike the mountain one morning and never returned. I was a quarter of the way through this book and was convinced that I was reading a mystery spoof rather than a science fiction piece. Don't get me wrong - I was enjoying myself. Like Nabokov, the Strugatsky Brothers have a very dry sense of irreverent humor that I quite enjoy. But there were hints of something strange a brewing.

Stories of missing items, bumps in the night, and disappearing guests, alien objects in the sky, ghosts, and silver bullets all begin to make appearances. When a dead body is found behind a locked door with no obvious murderer to be found, Investigator Glebsky's vacation is over and he is back on the job. I am not going to give any spoilers for the grey here - but any doubts I had about this being science fiction or not went right out the window. Good old fashioned murder mysteries aren't so old fashioned when aliens, robots, avalanches caused from secret power factories, and superhuman feats of strength come into the picture. A book that was already pretty funny to begin with gets even better when literally everything is possible. This is a fun book to read, and a quick one at that. I highly recommend it. I am half way through another one of the Strugatsky's books, Roadside Picnic. It is considered one of their best and I can't wait to tell you about it.

Thanks for indulging my book thing folks -


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