Dungeon Bookshelf vol.2: Hard to Be a God

Ain’t no rest for the wicked, time for another episode of my little scuffed book reviews. Strugatsky brothers again, there will probably around 10 more reviews (if not more) until I’m kinda done with everything I want to read out of their books and I have full collection, so might as well binge that, but we’ll see. In any case I’m currently at 7 books finished and you only had one review, so yeah.

A bit different kind of sci-fi in today’s book, it overlaps with medieval world in a very interesting setting that in my opinion could fit some good videogame (there was one actually, but not very good, might actually be good Eurojank RPG material for my stream later). Let’s go…

This book got decent amount of recognition and was published in other countries a lot which doesn’t really surprise me, because it actually has really interesting setting and really fits the message well in it. Title really encompasses main idea of the book and some topics were also developed and explored in future books of Strugatsky brothers (this one is their early work), being part of their Noon Universe.

Main premise in short and without spoilers (tbh start of the book is kinda “cryptic” with it until couple of chapters in, so not a big spoiler, but if you want to be completely “he doesn’t know PepeLaugh”, then skip this paragraph) – humanity is very advanced in the future and space travel allowed us to find other civilizations, some of which are less developed and scientists are sending observers to study how they are developing and evolving while trying to avoid affecting natural processes and getting involved. Being one such observer from way more advanced civilization, having all knowledge and technology sure makes you a god there, but you also have all the limitations and can’t really use any of your power. So we are reading the story of one such observer researching basically medieval Earth country that is going through period of “culling” intelligent people for ideological/religious reasons and collecting information, letting historians on Earth with their theories to see how it works in reality (at least in that particular reality).

Book explores how bloody and oppressive can different regimes be and that even being way more educated and advanced might still not be enough to see through very basic human cunning and plotting. A lot of character development and inner struggles of main hero and even a little bit of what we would probably consider superhero theme being explored with getting weaknesses through getting involved and attached. There is even one alternative ending theory that made me very excited when I was reading some author commentary and other sources after finishing the book, but that wasn’t author’s design sadly.

Big recommend from me – easy to read, very interesting and makes you think, I’d say compared to some other Strugatsky books it’s pretty “finished”, leaving you with some sort of conclusion, while some other books you are left with “wait, it’s over?” reaction, like with Roadside Picnic. Would be great videogame or movie (there are both videogame and movie actually, even 2 movies and I think one actually has good reviews, but not very known, but with big budget and all I think it could be great).

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