Dungeon Bookshelf vol.4: The Final Circle of Paradise (Predatory Things of the Century)

Got some time this week so we are back to some book reviews again. My vacation selection has only a couple left, so almost done with it, but I’m also still reading on my swimming pool “commute”, so there’s still a lot of material.

More Strugatsky brothers and their soviet sci-fi, at this point I’m quite dedicated to just read all their works, because I’m already quite deep, enjoy it a lot and some of the books form a whole universe that would be nice to explore fully. This time we are full future (or well actually future for them, but we are almost in that future currently, a bit altered version, but close, which makes it more interesting) and on Earth, so no space travels and other races, just our own issues as a future society that achieved abundance and peace. A little bit of dystopia today, let’s go…

This is one of the books that would be interesting to discuss and to draw parallels with our modern life, but that also would be spoilers, so I’ll try to avoid that and let you explore it yourself if you will ever decide to read this story yourself.

Main character we know from previous books, but that connection is not super important, so you aren’t really missing a lot not reading it (I actually only read some books of the cycle and I think not the one that is a “prequel” here, but it was long time ago too, so don’t remember). MC arrives to a city somewhere in Europe that mostly is visited by people for vacations, kinda “resort” city, pretending to be a writer that wants to write his book there in peace. In fact he’s investigating a wave of mysterious deaths that are supposedly caused by some potent drug and the main goal is to uncover whole supply chain.

Really most of the book is exploring the city and how people live there, I’ll remind you that it’s published in 1965 and written in Soviet Union where many of IRL things that you can see behind book’s description weren’t really known and experienced. There is even something that can resemble paintball while that wasn’t even invented until 15 years later. Main concept that is being explored is humanity in absolute abundance and peace (at least in this particular area) – eat all you need, do whatever you want, absolute freedom pretty much. And picture is quite sad, probably even more sad when you sometimes can see something resembling real world in pictures that book draws. Drug itself in the end is actually also something that you can recognize in a way from our current state of life, I’d say some recent events and trends would probably make it even more recognizable there. Not gonna go too deep into it, because that would require big spoilers to clear that out.

Expecting somewhat of a detective story you don’t really get too much of that, but you still get something really interesting to read, especially when you try to draw parallels with reality and when after reading everything you try to look back and process all the connections. Very satisfying feeling I tell you. Pretty easy to read and while it doesn’t really build a lot of “hype” around the investigation part it still keep your attention quite well. Some parts of the narrative remain somewhat abandoned though I feel and that’s in general something I noticed a lot with Strugatsky books – some lines can start being developed and then you just realize that you never see them anymore after you finished reading. Not sure if intentional or they just kinda drift and leave it that way, either way sometimes it kinda makes me go ???, could elaborate and explore some side quests, but doesn’t really diminish the quality of main plot and book as a whole.

Another interesting bit was reading Strugatsky looking back after many years and talking about the book (there is a whole separate “book” that is kinda like behind the scenes, excerpts from diaries and Boris Strugatsky going through all that in late 90s giving his “modern” perspective). They first thought about this story like it’s a dystopia, but in time that perception changed and later he realized that the world of this book isn’t that bad, because maybe it might be quite disgusting, but human being there is free and can do everything, they can choose just going full hedonism, but they can also pursue any other goal and higher purpose. Another bit that I found a bit funny was “After all this world is most plausible. World of Noon (one of their books and whole universe started with it, will review those too later, technically Hard to Be a God and Prisoners of Power are part of it) most likely will never be real, World of 1984 (yep, Orwell book) is thankfully already behind (this is where I’d react with Kapp or PepeLaugh and smiled IRL), but World of this books is something that is right around the corner, so we need to be prepared for it”. Since the end of 90s we are totally already somewhere near that corner, maybe not as one body, but like a train with first carts already being close.

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