||It has been suggested that Ark (Noon Universe) and Minor planets of Noon Universe be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since April 2012.|
The Noon Universe (Russian term: "Мир Полудня" or "Мир Полдня" – "World of Noon") is a fictional future setting for a number of hard science fiction novels written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The universe is named after Noon: 22nd Century, the chronologically first novel from the series. While the Noon Universe shares many utopian qualities with the early Star Trek universe (such as world peace and high standards of living), it has its share of problems and internal conflicts.
According to Arkady Strugatsky, at first, the brothers did not make a conscious effort to create a fictional universe. Rather, they reused characters and settings from prior works whenever they found it convenient. It wasn't until later that they began drawing on common themes and plot threads from various novels to create newer works.
The most striking difference between Noon Universe and most of the other fictional sci-fi universes (most famous include Dune, Star Wars and Babylon 5) is a complete denial of territory-based imperialism, although the Wanderers might be seen as engaging in cultural imperialism. This means that no sentient race in the Noon Universe builds an inter-planetary state (republic, empire etc.) or has ever built one. Instead, most of them keep to their own planets, and the only space-faring ones (humans and, probably, Wanderers) have chosen a selfless existence assisting in the scientific development of less advanced civilizations ("progressing" or "progressorizing") rather than building a galactic empire based on their technological advantage.
Mankind is capable of near-instantaneous interstellar travel. Earth social organization is presumably communist, and can be described as a highly technologically advanced anarchistic meritocracy. There is no state structure, no institutionalized coercion (no police etc.), yet functioning of the society is safeguarded by raising everyone as responsible individuals, with guidance of a set of High Councils accepted by everyone in each particular field of activity.
It is a society of highly morally evolved individuals that has solved all of its material problems, knows no crime, feels no threats (except possibly from unchecked scientific exploration) and spends much of its efforts in scientific research (space exploration done mostly by volunteers), arts, education and caring for the young. Teaching has become the most honorable profession.
One of the controversial occupations is progressor. They are agents embedded in less advanced humanoid civilizations in order to accelerate their development or resolve their problems. Progressors' methods range from rescuing local scientists and artists to overthrowing local governments.
The main governing body is the World Council, composed of the brightest scientists, historians, doctors and teachers. The local matters are handled by the regional versions of the council. Planetary councils are present on each Earth colony (e.g. Rainbow), as well, although "colony" in this context refers to a planet that wasn't home to any sentient life before the arrival of Terran settlers. In the Noon Universe, Earth has never attempted to seize permanent control over any other civilization.
While the ethics-based society has managed to successfully provide for all human beings, some have difficulty finding their place, instead taking to space exploration, traveling to previously uncharted worlds. The practice is generally frowned upon, seen as diversion from creativity and self-realization.
The universe is populated by a number of sentient races. Some of them are humanoid, while others are so alien that humanity didn't realize that they were sentient for decades. Several sentient races maintain diplomatic relations with Earth's society. Many planets in Noon Universe are inhabited by races identical to humans in all but minor genetic differences. It has been speculated that they were humans who wound up on other worlds due to the Wanderers' manipulations (as Beetle in the Anthill shows, that is hardly unprecedented).
The Wanderers are, without a doubt, the most mysterious race in the Noon Universe. Technologically advanced and highly secretive, the Wanderers manipulate sentient beings throughout Noon Universe for their own purposes. While those purposes were never clarified, it was hinted that they try to "progress" various sentient beings.
These works by the Strugatsky brothers are set in the Noon Universe (listed chronologically):
- Noon: 22nd Century (Полдень. XXII век, first published 1961)
- Escape Attempt (Попытка к бегству)
- Far Rainbow (Далекая Радуга)
- Hard to Be a God (Трудно быть богом)
- Disquiet (Беспокойство) – the initial variant of the Snail on the Slope (Улитка на склоне) 
- Prisoners of Power (Обитаемый остров)
- Space Mowgli (Малыш)
- The Kid from Hell (Парень из преисподней)
- Beetle in the Anthill (Жук в муравейнике)
- The Time Wanderers (Волны гасят ветер)
There are loose connections of early stories The Land of Crimson Clouds ("Страна багровых туч"), The Way to Amalthea ("Путь на Амальтею"), Space Apprentice ("Стажеры"), The Final Circle of Paradise (through Ivan Zhilin), Ispytanie SKIBR, Chastnye predpolozheniya, mainly through Bykov's family.
In the early 1990s the Strugatsky brothers began writing what they intended to be a final Noon Universe novel. It would have tied up some of the plot threads that were left unresolved in previous novels. However, following the death of Arkady Strugatsky, the surviving brother, Boris, felt that he could not bring himself to finish the novel. The book should have been named White Ferz (Russian: "Белый Ферзь"). "Ferz" or "Vizier" is the Russian term for a Queen in chess. The Strugatsky brothers planned the book as a direct sequel of Prisoners of Power following the story of infiltration of the progressor Maxim Kammerer into the elite of the Island Empire.
In the late 1990s, a collection of fiction by notable Russian scifi writers, titled The Time of the Apprentices, was published in Russia (with an endorsement of Boris Strugatsky). The pieces in the collection build upon Strugatskys' ideas and works, and many of them are set in the Noon Universe. The same period saw the re-release of all Noon Universe novels as part of the Worlds of Strugatsky Brothers series. This re-release is notable for introductory articles written by literary critics from the perspective of Noon Universe historians looking back on the events of the said novels several decades later.
- Lev Abalkin (Абалкин, Лев)
- Leonid Gorbovsky (Горбовcкий, Леонид)
- Maxim Kammerer (Каммерер, Максим)
- Gennady Komov (Комов, Геннадий)
- Rudolf Sikorski (Сикорски, Рудольф)
- Maya Glumova (Глумова, Майя)
For more information about people of the Noon Universe, see the list of minor personalities.
- Ark (Ковчег)
- Arkanar (Арканар) 
- Earth (Земля)
- Garrota (Гаррота)
- Giganda (Гиганда)
- Hope (Надежда)
- Leonida (Леонида)
- Pandora (Пандора)
- Pant (Панта)
- Rainbow (Радуга)
- Ruzhena (Ружена)
- Saraksh (Саракш)
- Saula (Саула)
- Tagora (Тагора)
- Tissa (Тисса)
- Vladislava (Владислава)
- Yaila (Яйла)
- Ark Megaforms (негуманоиды Ковчега)
- Garrotian Snails (слизни Гарроты)
- Golovans (Голованы)
- Humans (люди)
- Ludens (людены)
- Leoniders (леонидяне)
- Tagorians (тагоряне)
- Wanderers (Странники)
Other possibly sentient species mentioned in the books are septoids (see Noon: 22nd Century) whose sentience is not really confirmed, semi-sentient prehistoric molluscs katapumoridako (see The Time Wanderers) and the unidentified sentient creature killed by Pol Gnedykh in the Kroox solar system (Noon: 22nd Century).
- Despite having a similar plot Disquiet and Snail on the Slope are completely different works with different ideas and characters. The former is set in the Noon Universe and features some well-known characters like Leonid Gorbovsky, the latter – in an abstract sci-fi universe with no connection to other books about Noon Universe.
- Although the planet was never officially named, this is the name commonly used by Russian fans.
- (English) History of Noon Universe
- (Russian) Noon Universe character bios, history, alien races list and trivia
- Noon Universe series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database