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Yellow Blue Tibia Paperback – September 1, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Along with a number of his peers, sf writer Konstantin Skvorecky, whose autobiography is this novel, was summoned to a dacha and told by Stalin himself to come up with a plausible alien-attack scenario. Just as suddenly, they were told to leave and forget everything that had happened. Konstantin spent the next years drinking and smoking himself to death, until he became one of the two Russians who don’t drink. In 1986 he encounters Jan, who was also at the dacha and now works for a government ministry. Jan believes that everything they imagined is now coming true, which means they have a pressing need to get to Ukraine. If Jan is right, someone is going to blow it up and must be stopped. Disaster awaits, for Konstantin is blown to bits at Chernobyl. Then his story gets really interesting, and the laws of reality get bent to nearly the breaking point. Roberts conjures the atmosphere of Konstantin’s era perfectly, makes his journey fascinating, and even makes him a pretty likable crotchety old man. --Regina Schroeder

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"Gripping, captivating, wonderfully funny and magnificently written, completely mess-with-your-head weird. Fantastically evocative of what life was like in Soviet Russia, packed with telling details. Robert's style is beautifully crafted, his dialogue is superb, his characterization perfect. This is a book you've got to read."  —SFX

"From the opening act in the dacha and the banter between the five SF writers, to the scenes in Moscow and the action and aftermath in Kiev and Chernobyl, Yellow Blue Tibia is at times unbelievably funny, and is just a romp and very accessible. Superb and I can't recommend it enough."  —Fantasy Book Critic
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575083573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575083578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,691,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Yellow Blue Tibia, with its quirky humour and uncertain realities, calls to mind Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K Dick. It also reminded me a bit of Stanislaw Lem, in particular, his absurdist novel Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.

Roberts has created some memorable characters here. The protagonist Svorecky has a kind of dry acerbic wit that permeates almost every conversation he has, and the nuclear physicist cum taxi driver with Asperger's Syndrome, Saltykov, is absolutely hilarious. There are some very funny scenes too - Svorecky's impromptu address to a group of Muscovite UFO enthusiasts and his interrogation at the hands of the militia are both eminently chucklesome.

But behind the humour, there's an interesting sociological theme about the UFO phenomenon and why it's so culturally prevalent. The idea that the KGB devoted so many resources to investigating it is both silly and oddly plausible - the Soviet X-Files. I don't think Roberts intended the novel to be a serious exploration of the sociology and psychology of UFO culture - it's more an intellectual entertainment. As such, I think it works pretty well.

So if you enjoy weird ideas and witty narrative, you'll probably enjoy this.
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Format: Paperback
I generally find "humorous" SF and fantasy to be anything but. Where's the wit? Where's the elegance, the sense of play? Well, as you may have guessed by the many gold stars above, I thought "Yellow Blue Tibia" was hilarious. It follows Konstantin Skvorecky, one of a small group of Russian SF writers selected by Stalin to create a fictional alien menace that will unite the Soviet people. Abruptly, the project is cancelled and the writers are scattered to the four winds.

Skvorecky tries to forget - as he was ordered to - but twin conspiracies make that impossible. One group believes fervently in the alien menace and wants his help in warning the world. The other group believes just as fervently and wants to facilitate the coming invasion. Together, they drag him through the darkest crannies of the Soviet police state, from Stalin's country chalet to a KGB interrrogation cell to the ill-fated Reactor 4 at Chernobyl. What makes the journey so delightful is Skvorecky's droll narrative voice and the hilarious bon mots he exchanges with his various jailers, interrogators, helpers and would-be assassins. It all wraps up in the best kind of happy ending - the kind that implies that, if only the book were a few chapters longer, it would include the end of the world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to this book as it seemed right up my alley- Soviet Russia + Sci-Fi + Mystery. However, I felt that the story took much too long to get its legs. The first 200 pages seemed to drag and while there were really interesting and definitely funny parts, the plot seemed to meander and go in fits and starts. Then the last 30 pages or so were great, but felt incredibly rushed. Explanations were hurried and seemed inserted last minute. Trying not to spoil anything so I won't get into detail here, but some things I think should have been given more page time especially since a HUGE twist relies on it. All in all, the story was interesting but uneven and I wasn't left completely satisfied.

I would have given this book 3 out of 5 stars except for the incredible characters.

So, do I recommend this book? Yes and no. If you're in the mood for a light read with good characters, I say go for it. But keep your expectations low.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I struggled with the 'verdict' regarding this book for some time. Of course these reviews are quite subjective, so to give you a bit of context and my personal frame of reference, some of the works which I find to be superb (5 stars) are:

- "Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds
- "Chasm City" by Alastair Reynolds
- "Beetle in an Anthill" by Arkadiy and Boris Strugatskiy

And example of good but not quite superb (3-4 stars):

- "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross

Now, regarding "Yellow Blue Tibia"

The PRO:
I picked up Yellow Blue Tibia due to what I deem to be a very interesting premise of leveraging UFO phenomena to further political agendas and the superposition of sci-fi elements with historic events. The book is well written and has a very refreshing and a sharp sense of humor - if you have experienced USSR culture at all, the humor will be that much more effective. Furthermore, if you are from the former USSR, the book will be more meaningful to you, but at the same time, will seem more flawed. It is a rather quick read. Character development is great and the imagery is effective. The story does throw you a couple of 'curve balls' and keeps you on your toes as you read.

The CON:
There is a severe lack of solid scientific ideas behind the science fiction in this novel - again, this is quite a matter of taste of course. There is too much foreshadowing and at times you feel like you are reading a children's book. Very fast and abrupt resolution that has a fairly shallow basis, leaving feeling 'empty' at the end of the story. Lastly, a rather awkward romantic story line feels grossly out of place and unnecessary - or perhaps is not developed enough to take its place as a integral component of the novel.
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