Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
[Actual rating: 3.75]
Time was not a line, but an awareness. I was no longer a body, but a series of pieces whistling as they bonded. I felt every cell within me. I could count them, name them, kill them, and resurrect them. Within the core, I was a tower made of fossil fragments. I could be disassembled and reassembled.
Fundamentally, this book seems like a journey of self-reflection and what solitude means for looking inside herself. Jakub Procházka is the first Czech astronaut, and travels to the dangerous place of Venus to collect sample for his scientists colleagues. There he spends lots of time in contemplation over the cracks in his marriage with his wife Lenka who he left behind for his own dreams and ambitions. How could he be so far, both literally and figuratively, from the closeness and devotion that they used to share?
While there, he meets poisonous alien spider,Hanuš, who may or may not be real. Because of his solitude they become fast friends and bond over conversational topics. While this is going on, Jakub notices that his wife is becoming more distant, and one day she completely disappears from a phone appointment. Shocked, Jakub steels himself into depression and falls into really poor self-care routines.
After some wacko experiences that he has literally floating in the universe and ends up in Russian spaceship of all thing. He was a child of the Velvet Revolution, orphaned and raised in the countryside by his parents. Always trying to run away and escape his past, always trying to be a better man than his father was, yet something pulling him back into the orbit of the past.
But one has to ask: why do the big things at such a high cost? I chose the quiet life. I like the idea of being recognized by my field and no one else. This way I have a purpose, one I believe in, but I'm not burdened by the constant idea of putting on a public image, a view of myself the masses can accept.
This inner struggle is characterized as the push and pull between having a public life with adoration from the crowds, or from deciding to retire to a quiet life that's under the radar. It's a common thread that goes throughout the entirety of the novel.
The only thing is, in my personal taste, I've noticed that me and space novels don't mesh well together. There's a lot psychological and character study, that isn't necessary exciting to the plot but instead drags it along. I've never been in a romantic relationship, so I tend to stay away from those entangled marriage studies, because I find they melodramatic and overly boring. Existential crisis and second chance are mixed into this pie, so there's a lot of living inside Jakub's messy brain, which is what makes this journey beautifully real.
**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
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