Definitely Maybe (novel)

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Definitely Maybe
Definitely maybe book cover.jpg
Author Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Original title За миллиард лет до конца света
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date
Published in English
Pages 143
ISBN 0-02-615180-4

Definitely Maybe (Russian: За миллиард лет до конца света, Za milliard let do kontsa sveta, literal translation: A Billion Years Before the End of the World, sometimes called Definitely Maybe: A Manuscript Discovered Under Unusual Circumstances) is a sci fi novel written in 1974 by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

Plot summary[edit]

The story takes place in Leningrad, USSR, apparently in the 1970s.

The protagonist, Dmitry Alekseyevich Malyanov (Дмитрий Алексеевич Малянов) is an astrophysicist who, while officially on vacation, continues to work on his thesis, "The Interaction of Stars with Diffused Galactic Matter". Just as he begins to realize that he is on the verge of a revolutionary discovery worthy of a Nobel Prize, his life becomes plagued by strange events.

First, Malyanov is visited unexpectedly by an attractive woman claiming to be his wife's classmate and food and wine arrive for them mysteriously and already paid for. Then his neighbor dies of an apparent suicide and Malyanov becomes the murder suspect.

Approaching the problem with a scientific mindset, Malyanov suspects that his discovery is in the way of someone (or something) intent on preventing the completion of his work. The same idea occurs to his friends and acquaintances, who find themselves in a similar impasse — some powerful, mysterious, and very selective force impedes their work in fields ranging from biology to mathematical linguistics.

An explanation is proposed by Malyanov's friend and neighbor, the mathematician Vecherovsky (Вечеровский). He posits that the mysterious force is the Universe's reaction to mankind's scientific pursuit, which threatens to destroy the very fabric of the universe in some distant future. His hypothesis is that of a Homeostatic Universe, meaning that the Universe tends to conserve both its total entropy (a measure of disorder) and the capacity of regeneration of reasoning performed into it. The equilibrium between the two measures determines the structure of the Universe at a given time. Thus, the Universe naturally resists attempts of rational beings of constructing supercivilizations. Vecherovsky proposes to treat this universal resistance to scientific progress as a natural phenomenon which can and should be investigated and even harnessed by Science.

As the novel concludes, the other scientists, including Malyanov, have been forced to abandon their research, and Vecherovsky remains alone to battle the universe and continue their work.

Derived works[edit]

Aleksandr Sokurov's movie The Days of the Eclipse is loosely based on the novel.

The Finnish film "Miljardi vuotta ennen maailmanloppua" ("One Billion Years Before the End of the World") was directed by Tapio Suominen in 1986 based on the novel.

Real-life inspirations[edit]

Yuri I. Manin, a mathematician known for his work in algebraic geometry and diophantine geometry, was the real-life inspiration for Vecherovsky. Like him, Manin is a great lover of poetry. Manin and Arkady Strugatsky were friends.[1]

In 1980 Manin suggested the idea of quantum computer in his book "Computable and Noncomputable".[2] The nature, protecting itself from being studied as described in "Definitely Maybe", might be an allusion to the quantum phenomena. The approach, suggested in the book by Vecherovsky, might in fact be an abstract form of Manin's idea of quantum calculations: If the nature denies us the chance to study itself, by producing phenomena that contradict our logic (such as those observed in quantum mechanics), we can study those phenomena and even exploit them to do "impossible" things.


  1. ^ (in Russian)
  2. ^ Manin, Yu. I. (1980). Vychislimoe i nevychislimoe (Computable and Noncomputable) (in Russian). Sov.Radio. pp. 13–15. Retrieved 4 March 2013.

External links[edit]