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- Beaumarchais, Pierre-Augustin Caron de — The Figaro Trilogy (David Coward, transl.) (335 pages)
- Keyes, Daniel — Flowers for Algernon (217 pages)
- Bök, Christian — Eunoia (94 pages)
- Zweig, Stefan — Chess (76 pages)
- Kinney, Jeff — Meet the Wimpy Kid (55 pages)
- Lovecraft, H.P. — At the Mountains of Madness (188 pages)
- Blatty, William Peter — The Exorcist (307 pages)
- Williamson, Jack — Darker Than You Think (266 pages)
- Pelevin, Victor — Omon Ra (152 pages)
Page count: 6448.
I picked this up because it was dirt cheap, I recognized the author and title, and I was intrigued by the title and cover page. I told a friend, who immediately reacted negatively. Well, if it was as bad as she suggested, it wasn't a huge commitment in terms of either cost or time spent reading.
And while far from good, it wasn't as bad as my friend implied.
Omon Ra is a satire of the Soviet system (fictionalizing Soviet efforts to reach the moon), and it seemed a bit odd that a book published in 1992 would be satirizing the Soviet government of the 1970s. It just seemed dated. (Kurkov's satires are far more effective because they are current.) I felt at times Pelevin was trying to be a bit much like Joseph Heller and coming well short.
Still, there were moments when the protagonists observations were thought-provoking or the prose evocative. While it failed to attain any great heights (or, indeed, reach the moon), it equally succeeded in avoiding any unfathomable depths.
After a frustrating day at work yesterday, a thought occurred to me on the train: Perhaps this isn't really a satire of the Soviets. No, it's actually a satire of the current worldwide internet scene. The completely absurd and outlandish description of the cosmonaut program captures precisely the sort of thinking that no doubt dominates Microsoft, especially their browser development. Perhaps Pelevin should have made this more obvious.