cover image Spaceman of Bohemia

Spaceman of Bohemia

Jaroslav Kalfar. Little, Brown, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-27343-5

A Czech astronaut travels to an interstellar dust cloud in an attempt to redeem his family name in this wonderfully jubilant and touching debut novel. Beginning with the launch of the spaceship JanHus1, the novel promptly flashes back to explore the complex motivations of the titular spaceman, Jakub Prochazka. The son of a Communist sympathizer who tortured dissidents, Jakub chooses to leave his beloved homeland and wife, Lenka, to bring renown to the oft-overlooked Czech Republic. Once in space, Jakub encounters a possibly hallucinated alien spider named Hanus, who interrogates him on philosophies both existential and personal. Through their conversations, Jakub is forced to confront Lenka’s new, seemingly happier life without him, as well as the ghosts of his father’s violent past. Their debates come to a head in the dust cloud Chopra, where Jakub must risk his mission, earthbound life, and contact with Hanus. Written in an erudite comic style, the novel boldly switches tones like a spacesuit built for multiple planetary atmospheres: from the historical to the domestic, from out-of-this-world fables to brutal terrestrial reality. Agent: Marya Spence, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Mar.)