Saraksh

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Saraksh is a fictional planet described in Prisoners of Power ("Обитаемый остров") by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. This planet is a part of the so-called Noon Universe and presents a world that survived an atomic war. As a result, the surface of the planet is mostly covered with debris and junk. This is a great problem for the survivors since many of the old war machines still endanger those living in the regions. For example, in one episode of "Prisoners of Power" the main character's aircraft gets shot down by an old air defense system.

Saraksh is notable for its monstrous refraction in the atmosphere. From the surface it looks like the horizon is above the observer which makes the inhabitants of the planet think that they actually live inside a hollow cave in an endless piece of rock rather than on a round planet floating in space. The phenomenon of night and day change is explained by periodic changes in the clouds gathered in the middle of the "cave". In ancient times, there was a school of scientists who did not believe this theory. Their beliefs found little support within the normal populace, though they did inspire a curse word "Massaraksh" (literally: "the world inside-out"). In modern era, their theories gained new prominence when they were used to help to plot long-range ballistic missiles.

Inhabitants[edit]

The planet is inhabited primarily by a humanoid race that is virtually identical (both genetically and physiologically) to humans from Earth. The only difference mentioned in "Inhabited Island" is the local population's sensitivity to so called "white" and "black" radiation which Earth humans do not experience.

There are four countries mentioned in the book:

  • An unnamed nation ruled by an oligarchy of "Unknown Fathers" (a group of wealthy politicians and military generals)
  • Island Empire (the supreme marine power, very little information present)
  • Khonti (a government in the mist of a barely restrained cold war between two governing factions: The Khonti Union of Justice and The Khonti Patriotic League; for reasons even the Creators can't quite agree on, it has been considered a dangerous threat to their nation)
  • Pandeya (a prosperous capitalist democracy. Like Khonti, it's a former colony of the empire that became the nation of the Creators)

The last two countries on the list were once provinces of a great empire that collapsed during the atomic war and divided into three parts, the biggest one of which is ruled by the Creators. A number of countries were completely wiped off the face of the planet, leaving the so-called Great Southern Desert in their wake. There were indications that some of the survivors of the war managed to create a nation deep within the desert, but, because the region was very radioactive, this has not been confirmed. There were also persistent rumors that some coastal nations managed to survive the war essentially intact. It is also mentioned that somewhere deep in the mountains there is a folk of "highlanders", people more similar to humans from Earth, but this rumor is never confirmed.

Saraksh is also the home planet of an intelligent canoid (dog-like) race called Golovans. These are most probably an aftermath of the atomic war, a random result of mutations caused by the radiation although some sources consider them a product of genetic engineers of the old empire. The Golovans were discovered by an Earthling Maxim Kammerer in the course of Prisoners of Power.

Technology[edit]

Technologically Saraksh is comparable to the Earth of the 1950s and 60s. Most of the technological progress is made by the military but despite advanced ground techniques there is nearly no sign of air force. One of the characters makes references to short-range helicopters and "air platforms". The only airplane mentioned in the book was a relic machine from the old empire. Such lack of airplanes only supports the dominant theory of Hollow Earth.

The sea is completely monopolized by the Island Empire and its "white submarines" that are able to attack land targets as well as marine ones. Apparently, the submarines are much more preferred than traditional vessels.

Apart from the normal, human-developed technologies there are also some elements of alien ones, for example, the so-called "Anti-Ballistic Missile" (ABM) system maintained by the Creators. The nation of the Creators also possesses advanced mentoscopic technology that allowed them to scan mental images and affect human nervous system (primarily used for torture devices). It is suggested that these were built using the secrets left by Wanderers.

Earth and Saraksh[edit]

Saraksh was discovered in 2148 AD by an expedition from Earth led by A.-I. Bader. After the scientists found an advanced humanoid civilization on the planet, they immediately withdrew and Saraksh became an object of study for progressors. All information about this contact was classified, so the planet was officially "open" for free exploration. This is the reason the main character of Prisoners of Power, Maxim Kammerer, who couldn't find an interesting job on Earth, decided to go to Saraksh.

As Maxim wanders, participating in wars, discovering new races, and organizing a revolution he is hunted by a Creator nicknamed "Strannik" who turns out to be a progressor from Earth Rudolf Sikorski. Later on, Kammerer manages to destroy the ABM System (see below) causing one of the most severe social crises in the history of the progressors.

The All-powerful Creators / Unknown Fathers[edit]

The All-powerful Creators were discovered to be a cabal of military leaders and politicians. Contrary to propaganda, very few of the originators of the coup that overthrew the Imperial government are still part of the Creators. Most were replaced by newer recruits. Some advanced through the ranks, while others came from the opposition. All Creators went by pseudonyms which reflected either their personality traits or their level of power relative to the head Creator (who, naturally, called himself "Papa"). All Creators had absolute authority within their areas of government. Often, those areas overlapped, which lead to bloody skirmishes. Papa, however, commanded the ultimate authority within the Unknown Fathers, executing any Father that displeased him.

  • Papa - overall leader of the Unknown Fathers. He was a prominent banker before the coup. He may have had gold mines in Honti.
  • Smart - the Head General Prosecutor. In charge of the legal apparatus in the Land of Unknown Fathers. One of the few Fathers that has been in power since the original coup.
  • Strannik (Russian: Странник - Wanderer) - Chief of Counter-Intelligence and Sciences. He operates one of the largest spy networks on Saraksh. He also heads the AMDS research team.
  • Blister - Chief of Propaganda. He was responsible for the introduction of the "Fun Journeys" program, which featured mentograms of mental patients. This, along with several other eccentricities, fueled the rumor that he was insane himself. He was killed during a power struggle.

Radiation[edit]

The ABM System, made up of hundreds of defense towers all over the Land of the Creators, is a complete mystery at the beginning. Officially it is meant to protect the country from ICBMs from other continents but it is apparent that no nation on Saraksh possesses such weapons. Throughout the book it is revealed that the ABM system is actually a network of radiation emitters later destroyed by Maxim Kammerer.

This radiation is a mind affecting electro-magnetic wave pattern used by the Creators to control the population of their country. There are two types of the radiation known: "white" (inducing enthusiastic happiness, used daily) and "black" (severe depression, used on special occasions only). The "radiation-withdrawal" syndrom leaves 20% of those accustomed to its constant presence mentally ill in the varying degrees of severity once removed from its field of influence.

The white radiation induces the loss of a capacity for critical thought, so everyone are generally "well-adjusted" and happy just following orders and working for the regime, incapable of questioning the world-view fed to them by the regime's propaganda. Any decent well-meaning person would thus sincerely work to the advantage of the regime, and feel good about it, while really hating its enemies and any opposition to it. When used in its high-intensity setting it induces paroxisms of enthusiastic love for whatever the person is currently conditioned to hold as their highest and most supreme object of adoration, namely the regime leadership.

Black radiation induces acute sorrow, putting anyone it is applied to into a deep depression. Its use is reserved for special occasions like leadership change, or in war. This was used only once in Prisoners of Power, when Maxim Kammerer changed the program of the emanating emitters to win enough time to plant a bomb at the system center and get away.

Those who are impervious to the mind-controlling effects of radiation suffer from terrible headaches when its intensity rises above normal level (which happens twice a day for half-hour periods in order to flush out any residual doubts and dissatisfaction in the susceptible population). Such people are labeled "degens". They form the Underground and are hunted down by the rulers as a possible threat to their power since, unlike the general masses, they are capable of critical thinking. The Creators themselves all belong to this group as well, from time to time recruiting some new members from the "degens" of the Underground, which is full of their spies as well as those who genuinely oppose and resist the regime.

It is clear that the radiation system was the critical component in the creation of the most sophisticated propaganda machine ever employed on any of Noon Universe's non-advanced planets, like Saraksh or Giganda.

Trivia[edit]

Boris and Arkady Strugatsky planned to describe the Island Empire's society and government in greater detail in what was to be their final Noon Universe novel. Along with the other things, they would have explained that the Island Empire was a prosperous, utopian society that maintained internal harmony by deliberately exiling their more deviant citizens to the outer fringes of the Empire. The crews of the white submarines was made up of the worst segments of the Empire's society. However, Arkady Strugatsky died before the novel was completed. Following that, Boris Strugatsky decided that he could not bring himself to finish it, so the novel was never published.

See also[edit]