cover image The Doomed City

The Doomed City

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, trans. from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. Chicago Review, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61373-596-1

Mysterious idealists trample individuality in a Kafkaesque world where disillusioned humans are taken from the 20th century and brought to a strange city where they’re reduced to components in a maddeningly undefinable system. In a city where the sun is controlled by the rulers’ whim, garbage collectors Andrei and Donald are forced by the possibly alien Overseers to obey the daily demands of the Experiment, run according to a dictatorial philosophy demanding complete faith. This is a world without food, logic, or identity. Restless Donald’s suicide pushes Andrei to brave vicious animal uprisings, human rebellions, and abandoned ghost towns on a quest to discover the origin (and sinister motives) of the Overseers. The Strugatsky Brothers (Roadside Picnic) criticize not only Communism but all tyrannical governments in a startlingly original microcosm that captures humanity’s despair and resolve. Andrei is the novel’s heart’s blood, embodying both maddening trust and relentless questioning. The City is the novel’s greatest character, breathing misery and distortion upon its inhabitants. This unsettling and intelligent novel’s chief terror resides in its underlying ideas. (July)