Red Star (novel)
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Red Star is Alexander Bogdanov's 1908 science fiction novel about a communist utopia on Mars. Set in early Russia during the Revolution of 1905 and on socialist Mars, the novel tells the story of Leonid, a scientist-revolutionary who travels to Mars to learn and experience their socialist system and to teach them of his own world. An English translation by Charles Rougle was published in 1984.
The novel begins with an explanation of Leonid's few relationships within the revolutionary movement and the beginning of his relationship with Menni, a Martian in disguise. Soon after they become friends, Menni invites Leonid to go back home with him to Mars. The purpose of this visit would be to teach his own society to Martians and to understand and experience theirs. The trip is accomplished by the "etheroneph", a nuclear photonic rocket. On their way there, Leonid is exposed gradually to Martians and their society. With the help of Menni and Netti, his doctor, Leonid is able to speak the Martian language by the time they arrive.
At this point in the novel, Bogdanov details some of the aspects of the socialist Martian society as seen through Leonid’s eyes. Children’s colonies, factories, and housing are a few among the many aspects of this society that Bogdanov describes. Eventually, the unfamiliarity of Mars and the stress of his mission there exhaust Leonid to the point of being delusional. Just in time, Netti is alerted to his condition and treats him for his severe illness. While Leonid is recovering, he finds out, contrary to his original assumption, that Netti is female. His previous feelings for her are then expressed and they fall in love with one another. It is soon after this period that both Netti and Menni are called away for a mining expedition to Venus. While they are away, Leonid develops a relationship with Enno, another fellow shipmate from his arrival to the planet. While discovering many things about the nature of personal relationships on Mars, Leonid uncovers frightening information. He discovers that the council in charge of the Venus expedition was vying Earth’s colonization as a possibility. The argument presented, by Sterni (yet another shipmate), was that this was the only feasible solution and that it would only be made possible if Earth’s population was destroyed. As Leonid’s emotional state was not fully recovered from his exhaustion, this news sent him into a state of psychosis. His resolution is to murder Sterni, which he proceeds to do.
After this occurrence, Leonid is sent back to Earth to recover from his extreme apathy. He does so with the aid of Dr. Werner, an old comrade. Once he is able, Leonid rejoins the revolutionary fight, but this time with a mature perspective. The novel ends with a letter from Dr. Werner to Mirsky (a character assumed to be Plekhanov). In this letter, Leonid’s reunion with Netti is described and they are supposed to have returned to Mars together.
- The main character, Leonid is a scientist/philosopher/active revolutionary who is chosen to accompany the Martians back to Mars to learn of their socialist system, and to help them understand his own. He is a native Russian. He was chosen for the mission because the Martians believe that he has both the mental and physical faculties to withstand the change in society and planet. Leonid's life closely resembles Bogdanov’s own, giving the assumption that his character was inspired from Bogdanov's own life..
- Menni is the chief engineer for the expedition to Earth. He is Leonid’s first friend and one of the only two Martians who speak Russian. He is the captain of the ship to Earth. Once they have landed on Mars, Menni becomes occupied with the commission to colonize Venus and becomes a secondary character.
- Netti is a doctor that specializes in foreign organisms, such as Leonid for example. She first appears in the novel as an aid to Leonid’s sleeping problems on the ship to Mars. Leonid assumes at first that Netti is male, but later discovers that she is female at which point they fall in love. Netti’s character is possibly inspired by Bogdanov’s own experience as a physician.
- Enno is a minor character that is a member of the crew for the expedition to Earth. Leonid mistook Enno, like Netti, for a male initially. While Netti and Menni are away on the mission to Venus, Leonid and Enno engage in an amorous relationship.
- Sterni is a minor character that is a member of the crew for the expedition to Earth. He is described as having a cold and overly scientific demeanor and intellect. His suggestion to the commission for colonization to take Earth is what eventually causes his death, as he is murdered by Leonid.
- Dr. Werner
- Dr. Werner is a minor character that only enters the novel at the very end. He is Leonid’s doctor on earth and his character serves as a venue in which to conclude the novel. Dr. Werner was also a pseudonym that Bogdanov used.
Bogdanov followed the novel with a prequel in 1913, Engineer Menni, which detailed the creation of the communist society on Mars. In 1924 he published a poem entitled "A Martian Stranded on Earth" that was to be the outline for a third novel, but he did not finish it before his death.