Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist)

‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ is an odd book. I think some of the strangeness comesdownload (3) from the fact that it may not have been originally written in English. Jaroslav Kalfar is from the Czech Republic and much of the novel is set in this eastern European setting. This is not a problem; in fact it was refreshing to have a space exploration story in the near future set in a new location avoiding the common crutches of using NASA, Russians or Chinese space missions.

The novels main narrative detailing the first Czech mission to space to investigate a strange cloud of dust that has appeared in the solar system is well thought out and engaging. The central protagonist is likeable and we grow up with him as part of the sub-narrative detailing his life growing up in firstly soviet and then post-soviet Czechoslovakia. Behind the iron curtain is an interesting backdrop and it made the novel, well… novel. I do not think if it had been a standard NASA affair the book would have been as engaging.

There is an interesting twist in the book which elevates the book from a standard space mission to something more interesting although I feel this avenue is not fully explored. The novel is strangely split into two definite parts, the space mission and what comes after. I am not entirely sure this works, the space part seems to be not explored fully and the second part is slow and at times clunky. This said the book is an enjoyable read and many will find it whimsical and refreshing. I myself enjoyed it, despite my misgivings and would suggest all interested in this type of novel to give it a try.

You can find ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ at all good booksellers. More information can be found at Sceptre

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