Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

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“Yes, there were things left in this world, I had traveled through Space, I had seen truths unparalleled, but still, in this Earthly life, I had barely seen anything at all. Something rests in the mortal soul, hungry to feel anything and everything in its own boundless depths. As boundless and ever-expanding as the universe itself.”

Spaceman of Bohemia isn’t simply a space travel story, it explores the depth of human beings. A young Czech boy, Jakub Procházka’s,  life alters due to the political changes and the death of his parents. Where he was once living a charmed life, due to his father’s work with the secret police, when the tide changes he is now shamed by the things his father took part in. Where once there was a fearful respect, there is now disgust, resentment, abuse from the villagers and confusion about who his father truly was. This shame will chase him as he comes of age, his father’s actions costing he and his grandparents the very land they live on and plant the seed to salvage his name through becoming a space hero of sorts.

Jakub has made the choice to explore the vastness of space, to bravely study a mysterious dust cloud near Venus over remaining with is wife Lenka. This is a way to make up for all the wrongs his father did under communist rule, but what will it cost his Lenka? It isn’t long before he encounters a spider-like space creature, but is it all a delusion or real? A friendship of sorts blossoms and soon there are philosophical conversations and before long Jakub is sharing his memories of love for Lenka, of his dark difficult childhood with the creature that doesn’t quite understand humanity. This is the pulsing heart of the novel and the surprise; I had not imagined a space novel would contain such gorgeous literary fiction. With shared memories of my own father in his village life as a young boy, I could well relate to the changes of the people, how with the weight of communism lifted, their true feelings and hatred could make young Jakub a target, for the children sometimes pay for the sins of the father. We cannot blame the villagers for their emotions anymore than we can stomach a young boy and his grandparents being held accountable for actions of the deceased but life isn’t fair.

All hope seems lost in space, everything Jakub didn’t realize he needed couldn’t be further from his grasp, physically nor emotionally but it may be too late, he may well be at the point of no return. Secret Russian missions that could be a danger to his existence, becoming a symbol for his own country but unable to bask in the glory he thought he wanted, his sole anchor to earth in the form of his love for Lenka possibly as faded and dying as a distant star, can Jakub make it through his ill fated mission and live to tell the tale?  Through the pressing torture of this darkness, his only comfort is in merging with the spider, sharing memories, thinking about the beginning of everything.  But life isn’t done with Jakub, and he may one day understand what led him into space, what hand pushed him and why. In forging through unknown territory Jakub discovers the least understood places are within the human heart and mind. As he says, “The weight is nice. What would the world be without it?” But you need to read to understand.

A gorgeous blend of sci/fi, philosophy and literary fiction. Jaroslav Kalfar has written a beautiful novel, can’t wait for more by him. Add this to the top of your pile for books to read in 2017

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Little, Brown and Company

 

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