Review of “Red Star”

Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia (Soviet History, Politics, Society, and Thought)

Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia by Alexandr Bogdanov

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I got this book for free through Early Bird Books, and I regret the money I spent. I consider it penance for the urban fantasy novels that I usually read. This book has all the poetry and drama that one expects with a Marxist tract. Before going into my criticism, I would add that this was listed along with WE as examples of early Soviet science fiction, except that WE is readable. Even as Marxist theory, it is poorly written. I would recommend contemporaries of the author such as Luxemburg or Kautsky; collections such as Hooks’ MARX AND THE MARXISTS; or more current authors such as Heilbroner. (My familiarity is based on writing and teaching about Marxism and revolutionary theory.)

In reality, this is two books. The first, RED STAR: A UTOPIA, supposedly tells the story of a Russian revolutionary transported to Mars around the time of the 1905 Revolution. Once there, he finds the socialist ideal for which he has been fighting. So the majority of the book is long tracts discussing the merits of the socialist system. Unfortunately, like most socialist discussions it requires a suspension of belief and ignoring scientific and sociological facts.

The second book, ENGINEER MENNI: A NOVEL OF FANTASY, tells the fictional story of how the Martian socialist state was created. Since Bogdanov uses the same names for the characters, it is difficult to separate the two narratives.

This brings me to a significant problem with both of these novels. There is so much emphasis on political theory that there is no effort to give the characters any dimension. I consider this a failure of the author and not the subject since other revolutionaries, Gorky, wrote novels that were worth reading. Without any reason for the reader to invest themselves, the books read like the worst of political theory.


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