Before I review this book, I should explain my reading habits. Back in the early days of my science fiction and fantasy reading (around 1971), I would devour any book I got my hands on. Granted back then the books were closer the novella length but I would read a 150 page book in 2 days maximum. If a book did not appeal to me, I did not worry about it. I would be moving on to another book shortly. Eventually, I started to build my personnel collection through used book stores and trips to the local newsstand. Thus my first to be read stack was built. Then I reached a dilemma. I wanted to read all of them at the same time. My solution became reading multiple books at the same time. I would break from reading novels when the new magazines arrived. I regularly read Galaxy, Analog, F&SF, and Amazing. Later, I would add that new magazine-Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (and for a short time the Adventure magazine from Asimov’s) to my magazine stack. So this normally amounted to reading 3 novels plus assorted magazines at the same time. When a story started to loose my interest, I would put the book down and go to the next one. At some point I would pick the book back up and finish it. This has worked well for me. Some people say they would be confused if they bounce between multiple books but I always thought of my reading habit as being similar to watching television or reading comic books. I never had a problem keeping the characters and events straight with other media so why would I have a problem with reading books the same way. Let’s be honest here. How many people have followed Star Trek through all of the various incarnations? Do the fans of the original series still recall the stories they watched in the 70s?
Flash forward to 2010. I am now approaching the half century mark. My reading habits still include reading about 3 books at the same time. I still break for the new magazines when I pick them up. My to be read stack has exploded over the years. It is now around (I have not counted lately) 300 to 400 books. New books are constantly trying to fight their way into my book cases. Realistically speaking, I am never going to read all of the books I would like to. If I stopped picking up new and used books, I could get caught up. I don’t plan on that so I have one other alternative. I am being more discriminating on what I am reading. If I reach the third to half way point and a story has not caught my attention, I will stop reading it. In some cases I might be missing out on a good ending but I think my reading time is better spent moving on to another book.
Now I finally get to “Final Circle of Paradise” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I remember seeing the DAW Books ads for various Strugatsky books. Somehow, I never found them. “Final Circle of Paradise” was the first one I found in a used book store. Non-english science fiction has always fascinated me. Based on what I have heard, the Strugatsky's are some of Russia's top sf authors. The risk with translated novels is the quality of the translation. Since I don't read Russian, I have to assume that the translator did a good job.
Unfortunately, this read as a very boring travelogue for the first half. The protagonist wanders around the city. That is the main plot of the first half. He does not do anything except visit different parts of the city. This can be alright if the environment is unique or fascinating. This one is neither. It ruined the story for me. When I am a third of the way through a novel and it has done nothing to catch my attention, it rarely gets a good review. Unless you are a have to read every Strugatsky novel, I would avoid this one. I will not write them off based on this one book. I think the next one I read by them will be "Roadside Picnic". I have heard many good comments on it.