The Bull's Hour
First edition cover
|Original title||Час Быка|
|Illustrator||Galina Boyko and Igor Shalito|
|Series||The Great Circle|
|Genre||Social science fiction|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||"The Heart of the Serpent"|
The Bull's Hour ( Russian: Час Быка, Chas Byká) is a social science fiction novel written by Soviet author and paleontologist Ivan Yefremov in 1968. Six months after its publication Soviet authorities banned the book and attempted to remove it from libraries and bookshops after realizing that it contained a sharp criticism of the current state of affairs in the USSR disguised as a critique of "Capitalism" and Chinese-style communism of that time.
This novel is considered a sequel to the 1957 novel Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale, taking place in the same universe some century or more later. Even though the cast of characters is entirely different, an occasional reference is made to the events and characters of the previous volume. For example, the main character in The Bull's Hour is a female historian who on one occasion remembers most of the notable Andromeda characters as historical figures.
Some 3000 years in the future, a Communist Earth has just developed faster-than-light space travel based on the experiment of Ren Boz (of The Andromeda Nebula). Using the new technology, Earth constructs "straight-beam" starships which travel by sliding on the edge between our Universe ("Shakti") and the Anti-Universe ("Tamas"). The second ship of that kind, Dark Flame, departs from the Solar System on a mission to a habitable planet Tormance (the name is borrowed from David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus) in the Lynx constellation, which was reported by alien space voyagers from Cepheus to be colonized by humans, thought to be Earth escapees from the Age before World Unification.
The society of this distant planet is labelled by Efremov as "an amalgamation of a Capitalism in its worst form and of a Chinese pseudo-socialism" and a part of "Inferno" (a deep philosophical concept of Efremov's relating to the Nature and the natural way of things, always as he claims infernal towards the living thinking sentient beings), a society in which ordinary workers' lives are limited to 26 local years ("short-living", KJI, or КЖИ for Russian: "КороткоЖИвущие") while scientists, engineers and other selected qualified professionals live out their natural lives ("long-living", DJI, or ДЖИ for Russian: "ДолгоЖИвущие"), with artists, sportspeople and "models" given somewhat longer life-spans than that of KJI (up to about 34 years). Both KJI and DJI are under the ruthless totalitarian control of the ruling class of government bureaucracy ("snake-carriers", similar to the prototypical "inner-party members" of Orwell's 1984) and the police forces ("the lilac"), which in turn are under the direct command of the Council of Four and its Chairman, the actual Ruler of the planet. The most shocking aspect of its civilization for the Earthians is its total control of information, maintaining separate information systems for separate social strata, with full and true information available ultimately only to the Supreme Leader (who, for example, is the only one on the whole planet knowing that Tormance people are, in fact, from Earth).
The plot follows the Communist crew as they establish contact and explore the planet's society, eventually sacrificing some lives including that of the expedition leader, female historian Fay Rodis, for the sake of free future of the planet and its people's children. Their influence is predominantly through providing full and true information freely to all people about Earth's past and present, and their views of the situation on the planet. They also provide a selective short memory-eraser (a modifier of social and behavioural skills) to be used against the system's spies by the nascent resistance. Also, some of the crew (esp. Rodis) have the mental capacity to do the same sort of influence without use of the device. Every member of the crew was also accompanied by a nine-legged discoid robot called SDF (Servant, Defender and Freighter).
- Inferno, the Nature and Nature's way of death and suffering at the basis of life and development (evolution etc., cf. The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom). Main measure of societal infernality is how much efforts are the individuals forced to spend "for nothing", without contributing to their well-being. The main achievement of Humanity in the novel is that it overcame the Inferno through arduous journey finally achieving "free and rational life for everyone".
- Ahriman's arrow, the apparent selection and forces in the infernal societies directed against their best and brightest and most good-willing.
- Utopian moneyless propertyless Earth society, self-organizing through interactions of free highly morally developed responsible individuals, with collective child-rearing, direct planet-wide voting and discussions on every issue, and High Councils coordinating people's efforts each in its area of expertise.
- Protective societal systems, targeted at preventing the lowly infernal parts of human psyche to resurface and break the finely tuned societal order of "communist" Earth (e.g. counteracting aggressive tendencies in advance, that would otherwise necessitate counter-force in self-defense, if allowed to develop into actions).
- The Great Circle of Civilizations, communicating with each other through space by radio signals, enduring the delays as determined by the laws of physics, exchanging ideas and information about each other's culture, history and values.
- The cardinal law of the Great Circle whereas any interference in a civilization's internal affairs is forbidden unless that civilization is impeding free access to the full, unaltered, non-filtered and non-distorted information for all and any of its subjects – in which case such a civilization is said to have no right to exist and the interference by the Great Circle is demanded to free its people and ensure their Right to Know and Right to Think:
Not one state has such a right [to deny access to information], not one planet! The sacred duty of each of us is to contravene such an unprecedented oppression. Who dares block the way of a sentient reasoning being towards knowledge? ... When in the Great Circle a state is discovered that blocks the way to knowledge for its people, such a state is dismantled. This is the only case that gives the right to interfere in the affairs of another planet. ... the prohibition to learn about arts, sciences, life on other planets, is unacceptable.
The Eras of human history
Spanning approximately three thousand years from the 20th century to the present time of the novel, these are:
- The Era of Disjoint World
- The Era of World Reunion (people of the world uniting together, creating the new society)
- The Era of Common Labor (the period of cleaning, improving and beautifying the Earth)
- The Era of the Great Circle (started with the discovery of the Great Circle)
- The Era of Meeting Hands (started with the discovery of faster-than-light communications and travel)
It is hinted that a devastating world war has occurred between the eras of Disjoint World and World Reunion, nearly wiping out the Humanity. And prior to it there was a period of great ecological degradation and pollution resulting in widespread diseases, genetic and otherwise, increase in cancer rates and planet-wide epidemics (that's when the progenitors of Tormancian human population had left the "doomed" Earth on a starship flotilla that subsequently "fell through a space-time anomaly", and found itself near the inhabitable planet of Tormance, by pure chance).
Starship Dark Flame crew
- Fay Rodis, expedition commander, historian
- Grif Rift, annihilation drive engineer, starship commander
- Vir Norin, astronavigator-I
- Menta Cor, astronavigator-II
- Div Simbel, pilot-engineer
- Gan Atal, armour belt defence engineer
- Nei Holly, biological defence engineer
- Sol Sain, computational devices engineer
- Olla Dez, communication and photography officer
- Evisa Tanet, medical officer, StarFleet Doctor
- Tivisa Henako, biologist
- Chedi Daan, sociologist, linguist
- Tor Lik, astrophysicist, planetologist
Planet Tormance characters
- Choyo Chagas, Chairman of the Big Four, the ruler of the Planet
- Gen Shi, Zet Ug, Ka Loof, his deputies, other members of the Big Four
- Yantreh Yahhahh, his wife
- Er Vo-Bia, his girlfriend
- Honte'ello Tollo Fraelle (or Taele), his communications officer
- Yan Gao-Yuar (Yangar), commander of "the lilac"
- Su An-Te (Su-Te), Tormance girl
- Kzer Boo-Yam, "leader of the KJI" ("the short-living")
- "The Mentor" (PDF)