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by Victor Pelevin

"An inventive comedy as black as outer space itself. Makes The Right Stuff looks like a NASA handout."―Tibor Fischer.

Victor Pelevin's novel Omon Ra has been widely praised for its poetry and its wickedness, a novel in line with the great works of Gogol and Bulgakov: "full of the ridiculous and the sublime," says The Observer [London]. Omon is chosen to be trained in the Soviet space program the fulfillment of his lifelong dream. However, he enrolls only to encounter the terrifying absurdity of Soviet protocol and its backward technology: a bicycle-powered moonwalker; the outrageous Colonel Urgachin ("a kind of Sovier Dr. Strangelove"―The New York Times); and a one-way assignment to the moon. The New Yorker proclaimed: "Omon's adventure is like a rocket firing off its various stages―each incident is more jolting and propulsively absurd than the one before."
Download Omon Ra epub
ISBN: 0811213641
ISBN13: 978-0811213646
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Literary
Author: Victor Pelevin
Language: English
Publisher: New Directions (February 17, 1998)
Pages: 154 pages
ePUB size: 1649 kb
FB2 size: 1572 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 527
Other Formats: doc lrf rtf doc

Longitude Temporary
It's the cold war, and the space race is on. Putting a robotic lander on the moon has become an imperative of national pride. The thing is, though, Soviet automation technology just isn't there yet. Their solution: Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Screen.

When it's time for the first stage booster to separate, some guy has to release the latches and ignite the second stage - which, since he's under it, creates the extreme of "unsafe working conditions.' Likewise the second stage, and so on. The protagonist gets to play the Mechanical Turk inside the "robotic" rover and pedal it across the lunar surface. Too bad the budget couldn't spring for a return ticket - or pressure suit.

There's more, especially at the end, but it's a dark send-up of Soviet-era nationalism and double-think, the level of fanaticism expected of expendable workers, and wry observations on propaganda campaigns like movie set: fancy facades with no actual substance behind them. I'm sure that, for those who lived that era or who live in its shadow, this comes across as dark and somewhat subversive satire. For me, though, it simply seemed grim.

-- wiredweird
A great read loaded with satire on the Soviet Union/Russia. If you feel that the former communist country was a gift to the world, you will probably not like the depiction of the Soviet space program. If you dont feel that way and like good satire then this short read (almost a novella) (I read it in one chemotherapy session). Basically the story follows Oman later Oman Ra thru his training for Soviet space flight. As the story is fairly short I wont go into more detail as it would spoil the story. I highly recommend the book and it is well worth reading.
I thought this novella would fall in the Science Fiction category, but it’s more a fictional satire of the 1970’s Soviet space program. Named by his father after the Soviet OMON, the Interior Ministry riot police, Omon, a Soviet astronaut, renames himself Ra after the Egyptian sun god. His entire life has been devoted to traveling to the moon, but he’s in for a surprise.

A pretty good story.
Viewing a 3D movie without wearing the special glasses required yields a blurry, migraine inducing image. Razor-sharp focus of plot and theme in Victor Pelevin's genre-busting Omon Ra may not be entirely achievable, and it's a fair bet that the author's Buddhist background led him to deliberately include paradox (a literary koan) in the weaving of this kaleidoscopic tale. A bit of background does, though, sharpen the images that blast through this novel enough to allow the emergence of a rock-you-back-on-your-heels trip to a mental outer space that many readers (including myself) have not yet explored.

Pelevin, Russian-born in 1962, earned a degree in electro-mechanical engineering, then went on to study creative writing. A student of Buddhism, the right-living (reportedly he neither drinks nor smokes) Pelevin was witness in his 20's to the rise of glasnost and perestroika and the ascendance of hope in the emergence of a Russian national culture that would be based on openness and justice. By his early 30's, Pelevin was witnessing the disintegration of Russia into a culture that combined the worst elements of capitalism run amok and gangsterism as a form of government. Two pillars of Pelevin's life, science and Buddhism, are at their hearts a search for purity and truth. Juxtaposing them with the soul-destroying conformity of the receding USSR empire and the insurgent raw materialism of the new Russia didn't result in creative tension, one might guess, but rather a rupture of spiritual/psychological tectonic plates whose 9.0 Richter scale creative shock waves Pelevin (to the reader's benefit) captured in Oman Ra, his first novel.

Oman Ra is science fiction only in the sense that Brave New World is. Sci-fi fans addicted to space opera, technophilia, or alien encounters: stay away. Just as easily categorized as political satire, existential literature, surrealism, or historical fiction, Pelevin packs all these genres into a 154 page vehicle, where they sit cheek by jowl, sometimes uncomfortably. Cram your way into this rover, though, and you're in for a wild ride that rivals Hollywood's best chase scenes. Pelevin's imagery is nothing short of brilliant. From Oman's (the protagonist) father lying drunk on a couch under a reproduction of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, to the use of an unsteerable, virtually blinded bicycle powered moon rover as a metaphor for existence, Pelevin draws sharp intakes of breath and scores mental TKO's from the first pages to the last. From the absurdity of preparing for walking into a lunar vacuum by stuffing lubricated tampons into ones ears and nostrils, to the haunting image of humans as stars that twinkle in empty space, seen by each other, but separated by unbridgeable interstellar distances, Pelevin never lets the reader quite recover equilibrium. The first page is intriguing. The last paragraph of Oman Ra may be the most precise literary expression of existentialism ever written.

Though immersed in the absurdity of life, Pelevin's role as editor of a magazine that deals with issues of science and religion indicates that he may still be looking for answers, still plumbing for meaning. Gertrude Stein once said "There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There has never been an answer. THAT's the answer." I suspect that if Pelevin agreed with Stein, his tectonic plates would settle down, and the creative shockwaves would diminish. We, the readers, though, would suffer for it.
Ever finished a restaurant meal and started listing out the best dinners you've ever eaten? This book made me think about the best sci-fi books I've ever read. And, while I do not think this is #1, I'd be hard pressed to come up with 10 I'd recommend more strongly.

Unsure how this book came to my attention and I never even heard of Pelevin until the book arrived. I was not that excited to read it. I just finished Robopocalypse, and had recently read We, so was feeling a little over-scified.

After a few pages, I was less interested, especially since I knew very little about America's space program, let alone Russia's. I felt like I was missing much of the depth and humor. It picked up and then seemed to stall halfway through the reincarnation test. At the end of the test, however, I realized what I was holding in my hands ... a book comparable to Childhood's End, RUR, Ender's War, etc.

The review on the back reads: "And its final moments, about what happens when the poor boy actually finds himself rocketing towards the moon, are surely the most memorable passages I read all year." -Dwight Garner, Newsday. I concur and raise this praise to "...all decade."

As a satire, it cuts very, very deep - and I expect we can find moments in every culture where the story is less absurd than history. In fact, I can only hope this book is fiction.
I found this book while looking into Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers. This is a strange story indeed, but it's pretty groovy if you enjoy the Cold War era and are interested in what Soviets thought of their world (a heavily disguised opinion, of course, as only the Soviet writers could do). Some of the technical descriptions seemed a little bogged down, but overall this book is quite bizarre and definitely worthwhile.