Fardwor, Russia

Oleg Kashin
Fardwor, Russia Cover

Fardwor, Russia


Is there a Russian tradition of writing science fiction novels that are barely science fiction? The Strugatsky brothers have turned out one or two of them. Victor Pelevin establishes an sfnal or fantastic premise and then gets on with his satirical program. Karpov, Kashin's protagonist, is a kitchen sink chemist who invents a growth serum that actually works. He is a naïf, delighted to be getting results but woefully unequipped to deal with the consequences of his discovery. The oligarchs who control the wholesale meat industry will not be pleased with the prospect of abundant livestock and the cut rate prices it will bring. A billionaire, confronted by his midget younger brother transformed in a reasonably good-looking, mid-sized man sees unwanted competition rather than a newly minted boon companion. When professional scientists get hold of the formula, they make a tragic mess of things.

Kashin's short tale swings from being laugh-out-loud funny to saddening, but as with Pelevin's works I assume that the Russian audience is getting more from the satire than I am. That said, it still makes for an entertaining afternoon read. It's a variety of clear-headed and unrelenting satire that American novelists seem to take little interest in. And God knows the material is there. Maybe I just read the wrong books.

Kashin is a journalist whose outspoken criticism of the Putin government got him almost beaten to death some years back. Fardwor, Russia! has been published in Moscow, but Kashin now lives in Switzerland. Sounds like a wise move.