This is a very short novel, more a novella really, that is one of Bulgakov's lesser known works. Like most of his books, this was seen by the Russian government as dangerous to their regime, for obvious reasons. There are clear parallels in the plot to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and between the protagonist Persikov and Lenin.
Like most people, I would not regard this work as highly as other Bulgakov novels, it is not even on the same level, for example, as his masterpiece The Master and Margarita. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book as it is a very well-written satire, and the perfect introduction to Bulgakov and Russian authors in general.
The plot is very similiar to one referenced in the text, which is Well's 'The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth'. It takes the basic ideas of this and transplants them to Moscow, late 1920s. There are also echoes in it of another Well's novel, War of the Worlds, particularly in the ending.
The plot revolves around a 'Ray of Life' which professor Persikov has invented, and the disastrous consequences when it gets into the wrong hands.
I would advise any fans of Bulgakov's who have not picked this up to do so, even if only to get a complete picture of his writing. And for anyone who is interested in Russian literature, this is the perfect place to start.
"The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth" is one of HG Wells lesser known novels which I read as a teenager and "The Fatal Eggs" takes whole sections of it and transposes it to pre-war Russia. To give credit to Bulgakov he refers to this book in the "Fatal Eggs" making it clear to all that we should read the book from which the original idea for the plot came.
I have read all of Bulgakov's works (in English) and would suggest this is his weakest effort. Without a doubt "Master and Margarita" is a work of genius and I would point anyone in that direction. It is somewhat odd and you can't go wrong with anything else by Bulgakov otherwise.
If you've never read anything by Bulgakov try this one for starters. It's short, witty, simple but poignant. One-day (or in my case one-night) read. Even if, by the beginning of the end you know what went wrong, you still love it and laugh a lot. Leaving aside political background, satirical sub current ignored, it is a bloody good story (loads of blood). And it's almost hundred years old. Once you'll finish it, you'll buy Master and Margarita. Believe me.
I have read this book in both the original Russian and in Hugh Aplin's SUPERB translation. He delightfully and masterfully conveys the nuances of the original. This is the perfect introduction to Russian literature in translation. BUY THIS BOOK!!!!
As an example of early 20th. century science fiction and a sideways look at post-revolutionary Russia from the inside, I found Bulgakov's ideas interesting, funny and exciting. An enjoyable, gripping and sometimes shocking read.