Humans as Gods
1982 Lenizdat hardback edition
|Original title||Люди как боги|
|Published||1966, 1968, 1977|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Humans as Gods (Russian: Люди как боги, translit. Lyudi kak bogi) is a 1966–1977 science fiction trilogy by Soviet author Sergey Snegov. Despite being initially intended as a parody on space opera, mythological and religious cliché, the novels embody a complex set of ideas on the fundamental principles of the world's structure and development, and the directions of the civilizations' possible future. While a number of plot elements seem to be taken from the general science fiction concepts, the resulting story is unique in many ways. The central conflicts are based on the assumption that the face of super-civilization must be defined by its comprehension of the Universe as a whole, by the understanding of its elementary, most basic (and thus most deeply and widely operative) laws. This manner of narration contributes to a clear and powerful interconnection between the initial problems and the story arc.
Creation and publication history
Snegov's career in literature was a hard one: being subjected to repression during Stalin's rule, he remained under informal suspicion in later life. The very idea behind Humans as Gods was to write something publishable, a book nobody would object to. The author initially deemed this work as a light reading, merely another spacefaring adventure. The planned novel's design differed from the mainstream Western science fiction, as Snegov put it, in just one feature: being optimistic about the future. Nevertheless, the first book has been rejected by four publishers before being printed (which was unusual for the Soviet fiction publishers).
The first novel was published under the title Humans as Gods in 1966 by Lenizdat, in the storybook collection The Hellenic Mystery by different authors. The second novel appeared in a collection likewise: it was printed in 1968 by the same publisher. At that time the second novel has been bearing the name Straitened Amid Stars, with The Invasion of Perseus being the name of its first part. Curiously, the collection as a whole was titled The Invasion of Perseus. The novels got their final names in the 1971 edition by Kaliningrad Publishing House, when they were published in one volume as a dilogy Humans as Gods.
The third novel was written after a considerable amount of time and published in 1977 by Lenizdat. It was not until 1982 that the trilogy has been finally printed in one volume (by the same publisher). Snegov has cut the text significantly for this edition; the first two books were revised most dramatically, their size being reduced by more than 15% (mostly at the expense of the non-action scenes, alien civilizations' depictions and details revealing the heroes' characters). As a result, some of Snegov's fans put special interest in the original, unabridged versions of the text.
The novels have not been published in English yet.
The most comprehensive list of the Russian, German, Polish, Japanese and Hungarian editions can be found at the Russian Wikipedia article on the novels.
Novels and plot
The Galactic Reconnaissance (1966)
At the beginning of the narration, the main character Eli Gamasin, engineer of suns, travels to the world Ora where a conference of various star people is being held. Being at the conference rumours about a yet unknown advanced civilisation of "Galaxians" are unveiled. These seem to be kept in an cruel war with even more mysterious enemies, the "Destroyers".
In order to gather some knowledge about these races a squadron of star cruisers is sent out to the Plejades cluster. Arriving there at the world Sigma humans and their allies become witness of the cruel war crimes of the "Destroyers" and become a combatant party. One of the humans, Eli's best friend André, is being captured and displaced by the Destroyers, which are capable of being invisible. During a battle amidst the star field the humans are able to destroy many cruisers of the destroyers. André remains missing.
The expedition decides to travel to the Chi Persei cluster where the homestead both of the Galaxians and the Destroyers seems to be. Warned by the Galaxians the human expedition force enters the cluster and is being trapped. The Destroyers turn out to be able to bend the threedimensional space at random force. The captain of the last remaining cruiser attacks and annihilates a star fortress of the Destroyers and breaks free. The ability of the humans to annihilate matter to space is the tactical advantage in that case.
The Invasion of Perseus (1968)
After the first expedition to the Chi Persei cluster a newly formed invasion force of human kind and their allies sets of. Their goals are to find the still missing André, to establish a permanent contact to the Galaxians and to confine the Destroyers. Eli Gamasin, now admiral of the expedition force, is commanding a fleet of powerful ships. First attempts to penetrate the barriers of the star cluster fail but finally the Destroyers are able to trap three ships and to take the crews of these cruisers including Eli Gamasin and his family as prisoners of war.
Orlan, a high ranking commander, takes the humans to a concentration camp and delivers Eli to the Highest Destroyer. There Eli takes his chances and in a broadcast debate he praises the values and way of life of human kind and their allies. Thus he is able to acquire many Destroyers as allies, Orlan and the controlling brain (Dreamer) of one of the star fortresses (Third Golden planet) are among them. They support the humans to get into contact with Galaxians and to form an alliance against the Highest Destroyer. In a last battle humans and Galaxians wipe out the Highest Destroyer's fleet.
The Reverse Time Loop (1977)
Many decades after the events presented in the first two books mankind is searching for a powerful, mysterious civilization: the Ramires. Rumours locate them at the center of the galactic core, doing there unspeakable things. An expedition group sent there years ago had been extinguished. Now a new fleet with Eli Gamasin as head of the science department is armed and manned. On their way they come under attack. They encounter a time ship of the arachnoid Aranes. Their last surviving crew member Oan becomes part of the expedition but soon is to be revealed a saboteur and spy of the Ramires. Entering the galactic core the remaining expedition faces the problems of a distorted space-time-continuum and is doomed. Eventually they are able to escape, carrying the knowledge of the far-beyond Ramires doing mysterious but necessary things in the galactic core.
The trilogy events take place in the latter half of the 6th century N.E., where N.E. stands for the New Era, a novel age of the human history, counting years from the 2001 A.D., when the humanity has united into a single society.
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Most individual characters come from the four main groups: the Earthlings, the Starspeople, the Galaxians and the Ruinators/Malignians (later known as the Demiurges). The third book introduces one or two persons probably belonging to the ancient and mysterious race of Ramirs, whose nature may be completely alien to us planet-dwellers.
Themes and inspirations
The novels deal with the problems of the universal complexification process and the non-decrease of enthropy, the goals and agendas a civilization may have after obtaining the limitless power, the highest challenge to the individual sentient mind, the invariants of reason and ethics, the differences and possible convergence between the natural and the artificial, and much more.
- Vinogradskiy L. (21-27.05.1990) Norilsk: my love and hate!.. (S. Snegov's interview) // Siberian Newspaper N 20.
- Prashkevich G. (2007) The Red Sphinx // Svinyin and Sons. ISBN 978-5-98502-054-0.
- Collective effort (2010-2013) A collective research attempt on the Humans as Gods chronology.
- Sergey Snegov's interview over the publication of the 3d book, The Reverse Time Loop (1977, April).
- Russian fan community on Sergey Snegov's books at LiveJournal.
- Russian fan community on Humans as Gods at Diary.ru.
- Book review by Russian reader.