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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 13 March 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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on 10 September 2010
It's been about twenty years since I last picked up a sci-fi book. How lucky I was that when I finally decided to do that again, it happened to be Adam Robert's book "Yellow, Blue, Tibia". The name might not sound coherent, but is actually an English rendering of three Russian words I have no intention of revealing to you now - there will be no spoilers here.

The book starts in the days of Stalin's rule in Russia, and moves on step by step to the Glasnost days of the late 80s. It is the first-hand account of a Russian science fiction novelist, who tells an incredible story.

The story opens with him being ordered into Stalin's offices, along with other sci-fi writers. They are asked to invent a story for him. For what purpose, I cannot tell you for fear of spoiling your pleasure. Of course, things take a wrong, or shall I say, strange, turn, and the poor novelist's life start falling apart.

The book reads like a thriller - you keep turning the pages to try and find out what is really going on. Every time you think you've got it, Roberts makes a u-turn and brings you right back to the beginning. You simply can't figure it out, and so go through the same discovery journey the main character goes through. You keep fearing Roberts himself is about to lose the plot, but that never happens - he knows exactly where he's going. It's you who doesn't know. Right to the ending, Roberts never slips into unreasonability or unplausable explanations. What a ride!

The writing is so fabulous, that Kim Stanley Robinson has said this should have won the Booker prize. I cannot help but agree. The protagonist is fantastically done, with his "ironist" (read the book to understand) sense of humor and defiance of all attempts to control his freedom of thought. The other characters are not less successfully crafted.

I wish this book would've gotten more hype when it first came out, so more people could've enjoyed it. It's just too wonderful to miss.
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on 19 November 2013
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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on 23 January 2013
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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on 25 February 2009
This is the first novel by Adam Roberts I have read, although I have enjoyed a couple of his short stories. Yellow Blue Tibia is a witty, intelligent piece of science fiction and the most enjoyable book I've read in a while. It is written as a memoir of a Russian science fiction writer who emerges as a classic unreliable narrator (due to addiction, injury and the interference of others), but also provides a wonderfully acerbic wit. The tale itself is a sort of cold-war noir (as our protagonist never seems exactly to know what he is being unwillingly dragged into) and gallops along at a fine pace. It has action, suspense, laugh-out-loud humour, a love story and perfectly pitched dialogue which draws the reader into an imagined Russia. Yellow Blue Tibia is a fantastic exploration of the UFO phenomenon, the social engineering of the 20th century and our collective utopian dreams wrapped up in 21st century quantum theory. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 January 2017
After enjoying Jack Glass and being blown away by The Thing Itself, I have been familiarising myself with the back-catalogue of science fiction writer Adam Roberts, and Yellow Blue Tibia is a cracker.

At first sight, the plot starts brilliantly but veers into the farcical. It begins just after the Second World War with Stalin bringing together a group of Russian science fiction writers to create a new menace to unify the people, a fiction that is then rapidly concealed - so far, a wonderful idea. But the menace the writers create seems to start becoming real an increasingly unlikely events. What Roberts manages to do, though, is to weave the same kind of magic as my favourite fantasy author, Gene Wolfe in his real-world set fantasies. When you read a Wolfe book, you know the whole thing may seem absurd, but somehow it will eventually all come together, even if you have to read it several times to real get into the depth of it. Similarly, Roberts manages in the end to tie together the unlikely and absurd threads in a way that makes a sense given some understandings of physics. It's a bit like my maths supervisor at Cambridge used to say: 'No one gets it immediately, but let it wash over you and eventually it all makes sense.' And it's very rewarding when it does.

Having said that, I don't want to give the impression that the book is a hard read. Unlike The Thing Itself, which does take some work, rewarding though it is, Yellow Blue Tibia is an easy read which works as a kind of absurd adventure story most of the time. The protagonist Konstantin Andreiovich Skvorecky is a great creation who would fit easily into a comic novel - of which there are elements here - but there is far more going on too. Even though this is a book dealing with 'radiation aliens' invading the Earth, the only thing I wasn't quite sure about is that much of the action takes place around the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 (reactor 4 acts a significant backdrop at one point), by which time Skvorecky, who suffered in the Second World War, then practically destroyed himself with alcohol, is well into his sixties, yet he seems capable of action man activity that can rival Schwarzenegger (though remarkably, even this could be explained by the book's central premise).

This is an excellent introduction to Roberts - or, for that matter, science fiction if you think it's all Star Wars and space battles. As for that title, even this comes with a twist, as it's what a phrase in Russian sounds like to the English ear. Putting the English version into Google Translate and getting it to speak the Russian clearly announces the title of Roberts' book - a trick it's almost impossible to risk showing off to someone. A cracker, indeed.
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on 5 July 2010
This novel is a rare beast indeed, a genuinely funny science fiction novel. Science fiction has an innate need to be serious, in order to deliver a 'sense of wonder' and most 'funny' science fiction, like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, unfortunately gets its humour from mocking this sense of wonder. There is a lot of mockery in this novel but none is directed at staple sf elements. Rather we get the hero of the novel, one Konstantin Skvorecky, an ex-soldier, now a Russian to English translator, engaging in banter with a range of friends and enemies, and using it to come out on top, especially when his life is being threatened by a variety of KGB operatives. The use of language is extremely sophisticated, with humour being extracted from Skvorecky's English translations (signalled by square brackets in the text) and playful word games such as the Russian sound-alike meaning of the novel's title.

Skvorecky was one of of group of Russian science fiction writers recruited by Stalin at the end of the Second World War, as he wanted them to create an 'alien menace' to fill the void left by the Nazis, and soon the Americans once Communism defeats its current enemies. This plan seems to come to nothing but after the War Skvorecky is contacted by another member of this group who appears to want to re-activate Stalin's plan, thid time linked to UFO sightings. This sets off another spree of absurdist humour, revolving around confrontations, escapes, perilous journeys and a bizzare cast of supporting characters exploited for their physical quirks and behavourial ticks. Skvorecky himself is old and infirm from his war injuries, but still manages to pull off some physical hi-jinks: his intervention at Chernobyl is particularly funny as he plays a geriatric James Bond in a scene that could come from Dr. No.

For all its humour there is a very serious core to this novel, exploring why people believe (or not) 'scientific' explanations for things, in particular UFOs. Thoughout the novel, the reader, like Skvorecky, is kept continuously unsure about what is really going on. The resulting effect is very clever: hiding a serious exploration of sf within a comic sf novel. However, the humour does work against what should be in a science fiction novel. Theending is not the expected 'sense of wonder' revelation but rather more wacky obfuscation. Perhaps humour really is incompatible with good science fiction?
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on 4 April 2015
Just after the Second World War, Konstantin Skvorecky was a science fiction author who was gathered by Stalin along with several of his fellow writers to concoct an invasion story that would unite the whole world against an (imaginary) alien threat after the inevitable fall of capitalism. Soon afterwards, the operation is abandoned and the writers all told to forget what they were doing, on pain of death. Many years later, in the Perestroika era, Skvorecky meets one of his fellow writers from that time who tells him that what they were working on at that time is starting to come true.

This was an odd book. Skvorecky has a great narrator's voice. Ironic, deadpan and authentically Russian. Not many other characters get as much detail but that's okay because Skvorecky is the one at the heart of it all. He's a comedic, tragic figure straight who could have been written by one of the greats of Russian literature.

The plot is confusing, to say the least. I still don't necessarily understand a lot of it, but there's the involvement of an American Scientologist who gets killed, dragging Skvorecky into the Soviet Kafka-esque legal system. There's the prediction that Chernobyl will be blown up, as will Challenger; there's the other American Scientologist; there's the constant attempts to kill our protagonist; and that's just scratching the surface.

There's some plot thrown in towards the end, mostly relating to Quantum, but if it's plot you're looking for, this book probably isn't for you. It's Skvorecky and the situations that he finds himself in that drive the book and everything in it. Amusing, probably quite deep, but somewhat bewildering as well.
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on 15 July 2012
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? Perhaps that war that will need to require a total commitment, and, of course, total sacrifice by the people. So, let science fiction writers invent a new enemy - from outer space.

What happens next, and after that, and even later is a series of events that are totally unbelievable, unless you have bought into the Soviet system of defining believability. Then, well ... anything might have actually happened. Even if it didn't really happen, did that mean that the country couldn't operate as if it had? What difference would it make?

This book is filled with thought provoking what-ifs. As ridiculous as "X" sounds, if enough people believe it, what does that affect? If it could be real, would it be possible for that to make it real.

This was quite enjoyable and I continue to be entertained by Roberts' books. Each bends the world and its people just enough to make me wonder whether he is onto something (as opposed to "on" something).
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on 20 October 2010
This really could have done with the benefit of being read by a Russian speaker before publication. It's 20 years since I did Russian A level, but I found the very basic mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, transliteration and Russian/Cyrillic spelling quite jarring.
Although this is nitpicking, it is important if you're the kind of reader that finds these things distracting. The characterisation of the protagonist and the ideas about the construction of reality are interesting and engaging enough, even if the secondary characters and plotting can be a bit hamfisted. However, because of the mistakes in the use of Russian language, I found myself being distracted by things the editor should have caught- like 'suppose to do' and 'headscarfs' as well as noticing the joins in the writing like the bidimensionality of secondary characters and over-obvious plotting- like importance of Dora's size, which we discover in the last few pages.
Unfortunately by that time the dialogue was showing a rather shoogly grasp of physics which distracted me even further, and I found myself skimming the last few pages just to get it finished.
I think your enjoyment of this book would be heavily influenced by how bothersome and distracting you find these things- the story itself bounces along well enough and is fun enough to fill in an evening.
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