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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Then they scarred my face, now I'm a believer, or, what happens if you wear radioactive underpants?*
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...
Published 23 months ago by Runmentionable

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite live up to the cleverness of it's premise
Yellow Blue Tibia

Well, I was sucked in by several aspects of this book. A couple of people had recommended it or had suggested that it was well worth the read. The premise was sufficiently quirky and engaging that I felt it worthy of my time and the paperback cover was seriously eyecatching ("A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" played the same trick on...
Published on 20 Jun 2011 by Crookedmouth


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Then they scarred my face, now I'm a believer, or, what happens if you wear radioactive underpants?*, 11 Jan 2013
This review is from: Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel (Paperback)
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. After a few months, he changes his mind, and the concept is suppressed and forgotten. Then, in the 1980s, it appears to be coming true, as Skvorecky gets involved in a series of increasingly farcical and strange incidents, culminating but not concluding with some High Weirdness at Chernobyl. Plagiarise that!

The ending is ambiguous and leaves some aspects of the tale unresolved. Some readers have had a problem with this, but no other ending makes any sense for a book which asks us what - or which stories - we believe in, and why. All the characters embody different aspects of belief, and believe in different stories. Frenkel believes in Soviet Communism, even though it is visibly dying around him. Trofim believes what he's told to believe. Stalnykov believes in the palpably untrue alien invasion story which Skvorecky, Frenkel et al conceived for Stalin. Skvorecky's unlikely love interest, Dora, is an empiricist who believes in what she can see, which is Skvorecky. And as for Skvorecky himself, he starts off believing in nothing (an ironic stance which makes his dry, wry narrative voice so funny) and, after his bizarre experiences, ends up believing in - well, what, and why? In this context, tidy resolution would run entirely against the point of the book. Food for thought aplenty, for them as likes that sort of thing.

All of which may make it sound appallingly pretentious, but it's anything but, because - to paraphrase Honey Bruce discussing husband Lenny - it's just so goddam funny.

*Chernobyl fallout
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bozhye moy!, 22 Mar 2011
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This review is from: Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel (Paperback)
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witty and complex, 19 April 2009
By 
Sarah A. Brown (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite live up to the cleverness of it's premise, 20 Jun 2011
By 
Crookedmouth ":-/" (As seen on iPlayer) - See all my reviews
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Yellow Blue Tibia

Well, I was sucked in by several aspects of this book. A couple of people had recommended it or had suggested that it was well worth the read. The premise was sufficiently quirky and engaging that I felt it worthy of my time and the paperback cover was seriously eyecatching ("A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" played the same trick on me. Shallow? Me?).

The story is well covered in the blurb and other reviews, so I won't waste space on recounting that for you. The setting is (mostly) in mid '80's Russia (Moscow & Kiev) which adds some novelty to the affair and the plot follows a Russian science fiction writer as he uncovers a UFO conspiracy that he was in part responsible for starting. The cause of the Challenger shuttle and Chernobyl disasters are laid at the feet of his fictional (or are they non-fictional?) aliens and interestingly the Church of Scientology gets a look in as well.

Yes, it's a diverting story. Yes, the characters are interesting (I can only agree with a fellow reviewer that Saltykov, with his "syndrome", deserved a novel all to himself). Yes the plot is engaging and intriguing. Yes it's really well written (I can't agree with another reviewer about the authenticity of the Russian language - I have no expertise in the matter, but the majority of readers will share my handicap and are unlikely to be disturbed by the linguistic nuances). ...ad so on. This is a book that really should have worked.

Unfortunately, for me, it didn't. I found the plot horribly confusing (and confused) and by the time I reached the last page, the only aspect of the story that really got resolved was the title. Questions remained (for me) unanswered... Were the aliens real? If so, what did they want and why? What was Frankel and Skvorecky's part in the development of the events? ...and others that would be spoilers if I listed them here.

Perhaps the book needs another reading and maybe things would be clearer, but all in all, I found this deeply unsatsifying - a little like finishing the first two courses of a 3-course gourmet meal, only to be told that the desert is off the menu after all.

In my opinion, if you took out the UFO/conspiracy theory element and simply presented the characters and settings as a "slice of Russian life", this would be a novel well worth reading and if you try to read it as it stands but on those terms alone, then yes it's worth a go. As sci-fi though, despite the promising premise, it falls flat for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, but not a must read!, 2 Aug 2010
By 
P. McCLEAN (Dublin) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel (Paperback)
This is an enjoyable read. The first half of the book contains a lot of humour that is quite like the Russian humour found in the work of Vladimir Voinovich (see The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin) but, IMHO over does it a little.

The hero of this novel is a Science Fiction author who is reduced to working as a lowly translator. He fought in the Great Patriotic War and was subsequently asked, by no less a personage than Joseph Stalin, to work, in secret, with a number of other Science Fiction authors, to produce the story of an attack on Earth by aliens from outer space. This collaboration is started shortly after WWII and is not a very long lived venture.

The story then leaps to the 1980s and we are provided with details of what was really behind the disaster at Chernobyl.

The first three quarters of this novel could be considered plausable, or the incredulous elements could be explained away by rational explanation. The final quarter is a different matter.

I have heard great things about the work of Adam Roberts, but this book has not encouraged me to rush out and grab another by him. Luckily, the version I have contains the first chapter of his next book, [The New Model Army], so I can sample that before handing out cash.

A good read, but not a must read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truth, belief, reality and UFOs!, 2 Dec 2009
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a curate's egg, 10 April 2011
By 
Ter (Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel (Paperback)
Best part of this book is one wonderful character, not the main one, but the taxi driver, Saltykov, with his "syndrome". How wonderfully interesting it would be to spend time with such a man. Whether I would be patient enough I doubt though! I enjoyed the beginning and the end, but I thought the book was probably too long with large sections basically just padding the story out. I did like some of the ideas presented at the end covering multiple universes, but essentially am left with the feeling that this is a science fiction story where the author decided to hide all of his good ideas. It is a long time since I've read much science fiction, and this makes me wary of returning to what was at one time my favourite genre.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great UFO theory - but not what i expected, 13 Mar 2009
Yellow Blue Tibia is a crazy novel of multiplicating realities trying to explain the paradox of UFO sightings and there cultural existence and their actual nonexistence.
what starts as an irresistible premise about russian SF writers being asked to concoct an alein threat for communism, soon degenerates after they are told to disband and forget everything, into a confusing, bizarre and wryly humourous jaunt across russia and the ukraine to stop the chernobyl disaster, after one of the writers finds out that the aliens they created might in fact be real ad are following the plan they imagined. what follows is a very philip k dick style novel of reality arguements and displacment, parallel future theory and the reality of UFOs.
however i feel it actually doesn't do what it says on the tin. i was expecting a fight against a potentially alien communist government - inflicting the concocted story on its populace to galvanise them into communism. what you get is a strange hole where a real story should be, where now only existensial arguements remain. it is confusing and confused.
however i really did enjoy reading it.
the prose is deft, the writng wry and ironic, the arguements extremely entertaining and the reality based theory awesome to comprehend.
in short a great novel in the Philip K Dick style, but its not the story of russian conspiracy you might expect from the blurb.

on a side note - i really want to know how much is truly what Skrovecky thinks happened to him, how much is mental neurosis, and how much is adam Roberts invention. very intriguing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and irritating in equal measure, 23 Jan 2013
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An interesting and original plot, developed with gusto by a writer of obvious talent, intelligence and wit. Maybe I'm getting old, but for me the characterisation was 2D, the repeated recalling of other writers' work tiresome, and the humour overcooked. The ending is satisfying, but I was relieved to reach it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In Russia, You Do the Confusing, 19 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel (Paperback)
I sometimes wonder what would happen if the skies were to open and an alien threat descended onto Earth. I like to think the wars that plight this planet would stop as we realise there is little difference between human beings, but a lot of difference between humans and radioactive aliens. According to Adam Roberts, I may have the same opinion as Stalin. In `Blue Green Tibia', Stalin enlists the help of several science fiction writers to come up with a credible alien threat that could be used to harness the loyalty of his Communist followers. Several decades later Skrovecky, one of the sci fi writers, becomes caught up in an adventure that suggests the fiction they created may just be becoming real.

There are elements of `Tibia' to enjoy. The concept is a high one and very interesting if you stop and think about it. However, this is a book that is too clever for its own good. Roberts mixes reality and fiction together to try and keep the reader guessing. Is this science fiction or a spy thriller? In the end I was a little lost and did not care about either. For fans of harder science fiction, they could probably unravel some of what was going on, but I was unable to really get `it'.

This is a real shame as the confusing structure of the book masks some nice characters. Skrovecky is very amusing; his dry wit leads to some funny moments. There are also numerous side characters that appear to have mental/physical illnesses that make them quirky and interesting to read. However, this quirkiness infects the novel itself and the confused narrative meant that I was unable to enjoy the experience as a whole and actively disliked it at times.
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Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel
Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel by Adam Roberts (Paperback - 13 May 2010)
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