Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
Rating: 4 stars
I managed to push through this book despite my extreme arachnophobia (this will make sense in a minute).
The spaceman of the title, Jakub, jumps at a chance to go on an eight month mission to space and be the first human to attempt to retrieve and study space dust from a new phenomenon, the Chopra cloud, that invaded the solar system and added a purple glow to the night sky. His enthusiasm for the trip is shared by his entire country and the worldwide media as he is hailed as a world hero, a way to put his country at the forefront of science. His wife doesn’t share this joy, however, and she was not even asked her thoughts when Jakub accepted his mission. Now she is thrust into the role of Penelope, waiting for her hero husband to return and having her whole life defined by his absence.
During his isolation in space for the four months that it will take to reach the Chopra cloud, Jakub has plenty of time to reflect on his childhood as the son of a Communist interrogator and his failing marriage. How much of his life was spent trying to make up for his father’s sins? How much of the shame does he share as his father’s son? How much can he expect his wife to sacrifice for his ambitions?
He delves into these topics with the help of a giant Nutella-loving space spider who wants to study him to better understand humanity. While the thought of a giant spider freaks me out, he was actually my favorite character (and I share his Nutella addiction). I just wish he could have been a giant owl or mouse, or something with less legs. Nevertheless, he helps Jacob reflect on his marriage and childhood, making him dive deeper into his personal relationships to understand where he went wrong.
I don’t want to spoil anything that happens next, so I’ll end here. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a weird, out-there science fiction work that explores the burden of the past and examines the highs and lows of a relationship near the breaking point.