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Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel [Paperback]

Adam Roberts
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Jan 2009
Russia, 1946, the Nazis recently defeated. Stalin gathers half a dozen of the top Soviet science fiction authors in a dacha in the countryside somewhere. Convinced that the defeat of America is only a few years away, and equally convinced that the Soviet Union needs a massive external threat to hold it together, to give it purpose and direction, he tells the writers: 'I want you to concoct a story about aliens poised to invade earth ... I want it to be massively detailed, and completely believable. If you need props and evidence to back it up, then we can create them. But when America is defeated, your story must be so convincing that the whole population of Soviet Russia believes in it--the population of the whole world!' The little group of writers gets down to the task and spends months working on it. But then new orders come from Moscow: they are told to drop the project; Stalin has changed his mind; forget everything about it. So they do. They get on with their lives in their various ways; some of them survive the remainder of Stalin's rule, the changes of the 50s and 60s. And then, in the aftermath of Chernobyl, the survivors gather again, because something strange has started to happen. The story they invented in 1946 is starting to come true ... A typically mind-blowing SF novel from one of the genre's literary stars.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (22 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575083573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575083578
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.3 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 569,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Roberts is a writer of science fiction novels and stories, as well as Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature in English at Royal Holloway, University of London. Three of his novels, "Salt", "Gradisil" and "Yellow Blue Tibia" were nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and his most recent novel "By Light Alone" has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award. He has published over a dozen novels, a number of academic works on both 19th century poetry and SF, stories, parodies, bits, pieces, this and that.

Product Description


"Part a droll comedy of manners parodying the fall of Soviet communism, part an intellectual inquiry into the idea of multiple quantum realities and part an attempt to discover why, despite the ubiquity of reported sightings, UFOs have never been proved to exist. As ever with Roberts, the writing is impeccable and the ideas riveting." (Eric Brown THE GUARDIAN)

"Yellow Blue Tibia is a more rollicking book all round. Roberts is a very witty writer, and there are moments of superb slapstick here. Who said the literary novel was dead?" (Stuart Kelly SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

"Combining real events such as the Chernobyl disaster with bleak, Kafkaesque humour, Adam Robert's rich and strange novel is an attempt to reconcile the non-existence of UFOs with reports of sightings. A combination of the novel's sheer ambition and unexpected romance suggests Roberts is coming of age as a writer." (Jonathan Wright BBC FOCUS)

"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 charatcterisation perfect. This is a book you've got to read." (Tom Holt SFX)

"Yellow Blue Tibia speaks of the fall of Communism, deals smartly with the bizarre status of the UFO in popular culture and mixes peculiar jokes with and almost Clouseau-like action with head-spinning revelations and even a sweet little love story. A cross between Robert Harris's Fatherland and Ian McDonald's Brasyl but reading nothing like either." (Matt Bielby DEATHRAY)

Yellow Blue Tibia is certainly a different SF book. It isn't strictly an alternate history, but plays around with its ideas and tropes. It isn't a comedy either, but I guarantee it will make you laugh out loud on at least several occasions. The combination of several farcical scenes with very polite and proper Russian grammar gives rise to some entertaining linguistic combinations even Jack Vance would be proud of. A clever, confounding and strikingly amusing book." (SFFWORLD.COM)

"As always, Roberts has come up with an intriguing and original piece of SF. The story moves quickly and is driven by dialogue which combines humorous banter and philosophical discussions about UFOs and also the suggestive nature of science fiction. Yet another stimulating read from one of Britain's foremost SF writers." (Kevin Stone INTERZONE)

"From the opening act in the dacha and the banter between the five sf writers, to the scenes in Moscow and the action & aftermath in Kiev and Chernobly, '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)

"Killings, kidnappings, interrogations and everything else you'd expect from the KGB, plus a trip to Chernobyl and a most surprising love story, all wrapped up in the blackest of dark comedy with a cast of disturbed and damaged characters. Recommended." (David V Barrett FORTEAN TIMES)

Book Description

A PhilDickian epic of twisted realities and alien invasion set in the dog days of the Soviet Empire. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witty and complex 19 April 2009
By Sarah A. Brown VINE VOICE
Although technically it could be classed as sf, `Yellow Blue Tibia' isn't perhaps a characteristically science fictional novel. Set in Soviet Russia, its narrator hero is Skrovecky, one of a group of Russian sf writers who are given a strange task by Stalin: to write a compelling piece of science fiction describing an alien invasion of Earth. Decades later it seems that the group's `story' is coming true and Skrovecky is caught up in a series of increasingly surreal and complex events as he tries to work out what is really going on, and becomes aware of an array of multiplying realities. A few things puzzled me - for example, in a novel whose linguistic self-consciousness is ever present (most obviously in its title), why did two characters discuss the double meanings of `bluff' (p.190) as though these ambiguities were present in the Russian, as well as the English, language? The novel's many shifts and tricks perhaps prevent the reader getting fully involved in the story, but `Yellow Blue Tibia' is certainly a remarkably impressive, clever, playful book which recalls, by turns, Kurt Vonnegut, Samuel Beckett and Philip K Dick.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Runmentionable TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Yellow Blue Tibia is, among other things, a serious novel about the nature and consequences of belief, but don't let that put you off; you could get through the whole thing and have a great old time without noticing the serious subtext, let alone have it ruin your evening.

That's because it's an extremely accessible, fast-paced, exciting and, above all, very funny book. The humour is embedded in the telling of the tale, in first-person narrator Konstantin Skvorecky's droll, deadpan account of the preposterous events he endures, but it also comes from the vividly-drawn set of characters he encounters. As a Proper Reviewer notes in a blurb on the back cover of the paperback edition, "Skvorecky is a great creation, comic and moving", and while that's absolutely true, it fails to highlight the big yoks which come from the likes of Saltykov (an Asperger's-afflicted nuclear physicist turned taxi driver, and if you're thinking Travis Bickle crossed with Sheldon Cooper, you're getting warm, though Sheldon dominates), Frenkel (the KGB commander whose attempts to hide his rage beneath an urbane, rational exterior are only partially successful) and Trofim (Frenkel's assistant, and a lovely spin on the usual "dumb henchman" trope).

Yellow Blue Tibia is also that rarest of creatures, an SF novel with a totally original concept and plot. There's been nothing like it before, and there won't - can't - be anything like it again, as it's completely non-replicable. In brief, it starts just after the Great Patriotic War, with Stalin ordering a group of Russian SF writers (including Skvorecky and Frenkel) to come up with an alien invasion concept to be used as propaganda to maintain patriotism among the Russian people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bozhye moy! 22 Mar 2011
In the last 12 months I've tried to challenge myself with my reading, attacking all those books and authors I was too scared of in the past. So far, I've ploughed through the 850 page behemoth that is 'Vanity Fair', the intellectual rollercoaster of Saul Bellow's 'Ravelstein', a whole pile of Tolstoy, and way more Booker Prize winners than is strictly healthy (top tip: some of them are rubbish).

When I picked up 'Yellow Blue Tibia' I thought, 'Great... A bit of sci-fi. Something a bit lighter than everything else I've been reading lately. Should make for a nice break.'

Ha. What a moron I truly am. 'Yellow Blue Tibia' actually proved to be one of the most challenging, thought-provoking books I've read all year. The metaphysical aspects of its climax left my brain feeling like I had been smacked about the head with a piece of two-by-four - a sensation I last experienced while reading Philip K. Dick, and if anything Dick is the author whose work this most reminds me of, particularly in its skillful stitching together of historical fact and mind-bending fiction. The recreation of Stalin's Terror in particular was stunning, so much so that I may have preferred it if the book were focused more on that era, but this is a very minor complaint.

The Russian/Soviet state went through so many political and cultural convulsions in the second half of the 20th Century, an outside observer might think the whole country was suffering from a prolonged psychotic episode. Appropriately enough, Adam Roberts pretty much makes that the subject matter of this timely, and often very entertaining novel.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truth, belief, reality and UFOs! 2 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Heard this book referred to as "the best Science Fiction book of the year and worthy of the Booker Prize" - or words to that effect. Although no sci-fi aficionado I was intrigued....

Yellow Blue Tibia only loosely falls into the science fiction genre. It is in essence an alternative history of the Soviet Union. Konstantin Skvorecky and a group of fellow writers are brought together by Stalin and tasked with constructing a convincing alien plot. It had to be a serious threat that could be told to the people. After working cooperatively on this they were then told to forget all they had done there on pain of death and were sent on their different ways.

Years later when Skvorecky is working as a translator strange things begin to happen - and it seems that the story concocted by sci-fi writers appears to be coming true.

The strength of the book lies in its humour and quirky dialogue while at the same time raising questions of truth, belief and and reality. He raises the need for an enemy or a serious threat in order to galvanise the population - very prescient in a world of dodgy dossiers and alleged weapons of mass destructions.

My favourite scene was when Konstantin is confronted in a Moscow street by two KGB men threatening to kill him. Passers-by think that something is about to be sold and begin to form a queue hoping that there may be oranges or vodka on offer!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars In Russia, You Do the Confusing
I sometimes wonder what would happen if the skies were to open and an alien threat descended onto Earth. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sam Tyler
2.0 out of 5 stars Bored_Silly_by_this_Book
I bought this book under the influence of the recommendations from Amazon and the positive reviews posted about it. What a disappointing read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jaguar_God
5.0 out of 5 stars "Science fiction is the Olympic Games of the imaginatively fit..."
Set mostly in Moscow with a diversion to Kiev this intriguing and extremely well set up novel involves a group of young Science Fiction writers invited to attend a meeting with... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Eileen Shaw
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and irritating in equal measure
An interesting and original plot, developed with gusto by a writer of obvious talent, intelligence and wit. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ged Dixon
5.0 out of 5 stars Yellow Blue Tibia
There's a scene in Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia in which the narrator, Konstantin Skvorecky, is interrogated by a (presumably junior) member of the KGB. Read more
Published 20 months ago by TomCat
5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction becomes science fact?
Stalin's Russia is needing a cause to continue its control over its citizens in the post-WWII years. What better way than by waging a new war? Read more
Published 21 months ago by Dick Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, ambitious, face-paced novel that (just about) comes...
The concept is clever, the characters are interesting, and the plot is exciting. Add to that some quality prose - the author especially has a great way of describing the sky in all... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Rupan M
5.0 out of 5 stars sf & politics
I hugely enjoyed this - it is one of the few SF books to really address politics and a venture where instead of looking into the future, this book looks back into the past to come... Read more
Published 22 months ago by cayman
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic premise, shaky execution
Great premise but I got bogged down in the middle of the book. The climax is interesting more than satisfying. Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2012 by K. P. Curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars From Russia, with love...
I'd not come across Roberts' work before, but it didn't take long to realise that this chap can write. Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2011 by sjhigbee
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