Reviews of Definitely Maybe (1977)
Review by ropie (2005-08-15)
The second Strugatsky book I have read is gripping and intelligent writing of the highest science-fiction order.
The first third of the novel is almost Kafkaesque in its treatment of the main character - the bizarre and frightening scenarios he finds himself faced with and the confrontations from seemingly hostile (but knowingly mysterious) strangers. I felt the rest of the book did not quite live up to this first section; the introduction of a large (and confusing) group of his friends who are in the same boat seemed to dull the tension somewhat. That said, the characterisation of these figures is very strong and effectively graphic, as each one demonstrates their own interpretation of the events plaguing them.
The writing throughout has a cryptic edge, presented as it is as a series of 'found' texts from a manuscript. The story constantly cuts off at vital moments and whilst at times this feels just slightly artificial, it is certainly an effective plot device.
The conclusions drawn about the emerging situation are just as cryptic and hard to find, though that seems to be one of the Strugatsky's stylistic tricks for squeezing more out of a short book than most writers manage in far larger tomes. It is a book that will certainly require a re-reading to probe its many and fascinating insights.
Although not quite as compelling as 'Roadside Picnic', it is not far behind and has moments of tension created by the surreality of the situations that surpass almost anything else I have read in science-fiction. In my opinion it is certainly time that the English versions of the Strugatsky's books were republished so that they can be easily tracked down.