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Hard to be a God (A Continuum book) by…
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Hard to be a God (A Continuum book) (original 1964; edition 1973)

by Arkady Strugatsky

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264843,112 (3.61)11
Member:prezzey
Title:Hard to be a God (A Continuum book)
Authors:Arkady Strugatsky
Info:Seabury Press (1973), Unknown Binding
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:russian, eastern_bloc, sf, read, own, magyarul

Work details

Hard to be a god by Arkadi Strugatski (1964)

  1. 00
    Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (prezzey)
    prezzey: Banks seems to have been inspired by the Strugatskys' concept of Progressors. Similar theme, different perspective (Western vs Eastern bloc) - if you liked one, you will probably be interested in the other.
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A matter of morals

Hard to Be a God by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, translated by Olena Bormashenko, with a foreward by Hari Kunzru (Chicago Review Press, $16.95).

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were Russian brothers, collaborators on what was widely considered the greatest science fiction to come from the former Soviet Union. In fact, they were fantastic literary novelists who wrote speculative fiction as a way to address topics that would have gotten them sent to a gulag had they not been writing science fiction.

This new translation by Olena Bormashenko makes Hard to Be a God widely available and follows her outstanding translation of Roadside Picnic.

The protagonist, Anton, is from Earth but undercover on a planet only as developed as our medieval period. As Don Rumata, his alias, he is so far advanced as to be god-like, but he is bound not to interfere with their natural progression—easily understandable to American readers as a variation of Star Trek’s “prime directive.”

But when one of the natives decides to persecute scientists, poets and artists, Don Rumata’s personal ethics demand he attempt to help the intellectual and cultural capital of the culture escape; instead of being rewarded by his superiors, he’s chastised for interfering.

The parallels with Soviet oppression are clear, and the story makes fantastic science fiction.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: www.litrant.tumblr.com ( )
  KelMunger | Jul 24, 2014 |
What an amazing book. I think you'd need to go back to Orwell and H.G. Wells to find anything even close to having the depth and sharp, critical focus of HARD TO BE A GOD.

HARD TO BE A GOD was written in the 1960's by Russian authors, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. It began as a happy adventure story. But as the brothers worked on it their heritage showed itself. They began to imbue the tale with politics and their experience as Soviet citizens. But in adding all of these other layers, the scifi nature of the book was never completely stifled.

What you should know before you begin this book is that HARD TO BE A GOD reads like a play. There is very little description of place and character. Helicopter and transmitter, armor and sword are mentioned, but almost as an after thought. This story is told almost entirely through dialog.

[This left me a little confused at points. I didn't, for example, entirely understand the first chapter, but this may have been due to the fact that I was reading an ebook review copy where the formatting wasn't entirely finished.]

The story itself is about agents sent from our advanced, thoroughly civilized earth to an alien planet of humans living in the middle ages. Anton, Don Rumata as he is called on the target planet, and his friends are to observe and to save what good things they can in the tumultuous times in which they live in. And this task generates terrible dilemmas for them as they try to walk that fine 'Star Trek/Captain Kirk' non-interference line.

As the violence and brutality escalates, Anton/Don Rumata becomes outraged. He pushes and nudges here and there, trying to save the academics and the little bit of good that that has managed to evolve out of this retched feudal system. But mostly he fails. His colleagues argue that he is loosing his objectivity but this only brings up the question of whether inaction is truly the civilized thing to do. What is the 'right' of allowing hundreds, if not thousands, if not entire populations to be tortured and starved when it might be otherwise.

HARD TO BE A GOD is a nuanced story. There is a scifi element, but it plays second fiddle to the philosophical questions that are discussed. I very much enjoyed this book. And I can tell you that I must read it again, because there is no way that I 'got' everything that Arkady and Boris meant for me to get out of this book.

Chicago Review Press will be making this book available June 1st, 2014.

Note:
Before you begin Don Rumata's adventure, do read the preface by Hari Kunzru. I thought it was brilliant. I don't know about you, but I had never considered Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in terms of the rural literary tradition. And the conflict within Hogwarts as the conflict between Anglo-Saxon Potters and Weasleys versus the effete Normal-French Malfoys. I may never be the same. ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Feb 22, 2014 |
This is not the edition I read. I read the paperback from DAW, published in 1974.
This book is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. A rather simple sci-fi adventure tale on the surface, has so many layers it is absolutely mesmerizing. The story is about a planet whose social evolution is carefully monitored and guided by people from Earth, that have to keep their real identities secret, so to just gently direct, but not pressure the locals to a more "advanced" stage.
But history has a way to surprise even the smartest and wisest (and well intentioned to boot). And how long can you remain an spectator if all your values are being trampled?
In this era of "pushing democracy", I really think our leaders should read a history some human as this. ( )
  vonChillan | Jan 12, 2014 |
It's incomprehensible to me that english translations of the work of the Strugatsky brothers remain almost completely out of print. Currently amazon.com has two used copies of this classic available (presumably the DAW paperback), the cheapest one priced at $75.99!

Every serious reader if science fiction should know the work of the brothers Strugatsky. Hard to be a God may well be their best known work (although many seem to think that Roadside Picnic is their best). While this book was published two years before the debut of the original Star Trek television series, it deals directly with the concept of and issues around Roddenberry's "prime directive." Scientists from an elightened future Soviet Union are observers on a planet with a medieval socio-economic society. They are supposed to observe the brutal, amoral society, and gently nudge it towards a more enlightened future. The story follows one of these agents, Don Rumata, as he tries and ultimately fails to maintain a dispassionate, disinterested distance from the locals. ( )
1 vote clong | Dec 26, 2007 |
This is a version of "Hard to be a God" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky adapted for beginning learners of Russian. I had high hopes for this book because of the other wonderful graded readers from this publisher, like "Читаем без проблем". I haven't read the original, but I'd like to think that might actually be a good story if written with the entire Russian language. Unfortunately, with access to only 750 words, this adaptation is rather confusing, lapsing into downright incoherence. Definitely go with another of the Златоуст readers if you don't want to have a lot of explaining to do to your students.

(Q) ( )
  q_and_a | Mar 2, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (53 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arkadi Strugatskiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strugatski, Borismain authorall editionsconfirmed
Aksionov, S.Cover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bormashenko, OlenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kunzru, HariForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olson, SarahCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Specht, ArnoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strugatsky, BorisAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The sorrow that tortured me, the shame that overwhelmed me, the desperation that wracked my mind, all these I could then feel, but even now I can find no words to express them.

-Peter Abalard
Now one thing I have to tell you. In this particular show you have to be armed to enforce your authority. But you're not to use your weapon under any circumstances. Under any circumstances. Is that quite clear?

-Ernest Hemingway
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