Spiral

Spiral, by Agustín de Rojas - 9781632060334.jpg
Spiral, by Agustín de Rojas - 9781632060334.jpg

Spiral

14.99

By Agustín de Rojas

Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell

Cuban Science Fiction

Book Details

eBook List Price: $14.99 • eBook ISBN: 9781632060716 • Publication: 7/7/20 • 352 pages • Science Fiction: Cuba / Classics / Communism • Territory: World English

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About the Book

The long-awaited capstone to the landmark trilogy that began with A Legend of the Future and The Year 200 by Agustín de Rojas, “one of Cuba’s greatest science fiction writers” —SF Signal


The winner of Cuba’s prestigious Premio David in 1980, Spiral is another magisterial space opera from the late great science fiction author Agustín de Rojas. Deeply committed to the Revolution, Rojas presents a stunning critique of the Cuban regime under Fidel Castro by inviting the comparison of Spiral’s fictional moral universe, one in which Che Guevara’s principles of socialism are followed to the letter, with the brutal realities of everyday Cuba.

 

Reviews

Praise for A Legend of the Future:

"The best and most popular novelist of this genre that the Island has ever given…. He is considered one of the principal exponents of Cuban science fiction, and  he was undoubtedly the one who knew how to best combine solid scientific formation as plots and attractive characters with a confidence well-based in humanity’s socialist future.”

—Yoss

“Finally, we have the chance to read a landmark work from one of Cuba’s greatest science fiction writers….  Steady build-up of suspense, believable depiction of characters under intense stress, unique take on human space exploration…. If you like intensely psychological sci-fi that deftly piles on the suspense, this novel’s for you…. Agustín de Rojas authored a trilogy that pushes the boundaries of our imaginations…. You’ll want to prepare yourself for Legend. It’s been compared to Clarke’s 2001, and like that remarkable text, de Rojas’s will blow your mind in a good way…. The boundaries between dream and reality, and then between human and machine, almost melt away as the story progresses. And it is de Rojas’s skillful manipulation of those boundaries that makes Legend so addictive.”

—Rachel Cordasco, SF Signal, 4.5-star review

“This is the first English translation of a novel by de Rojas (1949-2011), considered the father of Cuban science fiction. Influenced by Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov A Legend of the Future tells the tale of a space mission to Titan, a moon of Saturn, during a potentially apocalyptic war between superpowers back on Earth. Along the way, the spaceship's crew is drawn into an experiment of reconditioning that may remind some readers of the ideological indoctrination reinforced to this day in Castro's Cuba.”

—Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune

“On the surface it's a very focused exploration of how three people could survive such a situation and the lengths they might have to go to. How people adapt when circumstances spiral out of control — and how they crack when they don't adapt sufficiently. Dig a bit deeper, though, and it is also a lesson on how ideals and beliefs can be eroded given certain influences and when they do deterioration is inevitable and unavoidable. The tightly written prose manages to firmly grasp the reader, the pace is steady and the quality of the writing superb. It's unforgiving and demanding but also worth the effort. I loved this brief glimpse of science fiction from a mindset free of western constraints. A Legend of the Future is a remarkable glimpse not only into a vision of the future but more importantly into a culture very different from western capitalism. It's also a stark reminder about some of the more serious problems that a country in the stranglehold of a communistic country face. A worthy addition to anyone's science fiction collection.”

—Ant Jones, SFBook.com

"At last, they are finally publishing science fiction from Cuba.... Let me assure you, it is a pity that it took so long!... What really sells this story is not the situation (which is terribly reminiscent of 2001 and Tau Zero), but the psychological focus on the characters.... I came to admire Rojas’ lesson conducted with the crew of the Sviatagor: namely, how the limits of individual humanity can only be surpassed through cooperation and dependency upon our fellow man—sometimes at great personal sacrifice. If A Legend of the Future is idealistic science fiction, colored by the politics of its age, then it is idealistic science fiction at its best—concerned with the fate of mankind among the stars and not with spaceships and gadgets and alien races. I remain curious as to what else Cuban science fiction has in store for its new, English-speaking audience. For those of you who are also curious, start with A Legend of the Future."

—Kenyon Ellefson, Portland Book Review

“Philosophically dense and hallucinatory in the manner of later Philip K. Dick.… Legend works as both suspenseful survival sci-fi (much like the current Matt Damon film The Martian) and a philosophical reflection of what it means to be human.… A strong blend of hard science and psychological fiction, A Legend of the Future should prove engrossing for admirers of Philip Dick or Stanislaw Lem.”

—Bill Sherman, Blogcritics

“Reading through [A Legend of the Future], I had was reminded of books like Solaris, and interestingly, of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.”

—Andrew Liptak, io9

“A subdued psychological drama enhanced by speculative elements about human psychology (fans of Joss Whedon’s TV show Dollhouse will find a couple of points of resonance) topped off with an overwhelming awareness of mortality.… It’s a novel that, together with A Planet for Rent, shows the dizzying range of fantastical situations that can emerge from a ground-level view of ideological conflict’s aftereffects.”

—Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature

“Throughout [A Legend of the Future], cohesively worked into the narrative as part of the conditioning, as memories vividly relived as like hallucinations, reveal just how tightly-knit this crew was, still is, and the philosophy and indoctrination that created that. The characters are put in situations, through changes, only possible in SF, but the psychological exploration of death, desires, thoughts, and values among deeply emotional-connected people struggling to find a way to survive catastrophe is relatable and human. It’s a fantastic book, well-plotted and paced, that plays with some traditional SF rules and gambits, while ever-exciting in the new avenues it creates.”

—P.T. Smith, Three Percent Blog

Praise for The Year 200:

“There could scarcely be a more opportune moment for the appearance in English of the late Cuban science fiction master Agustín de Rojas’s epic novel The Year 200…. De Rojas’s lucid fictional world intersects with many of our contemporary technological obsessions but charges them with remarkably distinct political valences. The Year 200 is a riveting narrative of espionage and geopolitical turmoil set 200 years after the communist Confederation has defeated the capitalist Empire….  De Rojas was known as a practitioner of hard SF, and the opening chapters weave meticulous technical description with briskly paced action; co-translators Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell nicely preserve the efficiency and precision of the author’s prose…. Just as refreshing is the way that The Year 200 allows us to imagine and think along with different contradictions than the ones that we currently face…. In this moment of openness between the United States and Cuba, a place often misleadingly imagined as a time warp, there is great potential for fruitful encounters of the imagination and The Year 200 provides just such an encounter. Restless Books, and Caistor and Powell, should be commended for carrying over de Rojas’s epic into English. Translating a novel of this length and complexity, littered with a technical language that is partly invented and partly drawn from the antiquated jargon of cybernetics, is no mean feat, and they pull it off with aplomb. Thanks to these efforts, English-language readers are gaining access to the riches of Cuban science fiction, a body of literature that surely has more revelations in store for us.”

—Geoff Shullenberger, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Agustín de Rojas’ science fiction masterpiece…. Agustín de Rojas (1949-2011) is one of the most important figures in Cuban science fiction, which is the only science fiction branch in Latin America influenced by Soviet authors such as Ivan Efremov, and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. De Rojas was also heavily inspired by other canonical science fiction writers such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. The Year 200 invites its readers to take a leap of faith and believe that a better world is possible…. For the first time, Nick Caistor & Hebe Powell, translators of The Year 200, have brought this masterpiece closer to the English-speaking public (alongside Spiral and A Legend of the Future). They have created an opportunity to read and analyse the acclaimed author’s literary achievement…. The Year 200 is one of the most interesting readings of this year because, ultimately, it challenges the readers’ understanding of the world and inspires optimism in a world that may seem full of darkness. 

—Selina Aragon, Asymptote

“Remarkable... indispensable when it comes to understanding the connections between Miami and Cuba. Although The Year 200 is not about Cuba, its author, De Rojas, was Cuban. Moreover, he is known as the ‘patron saint of Cuban science fiction’…. Think A Wrinkle in Time….It’s rare for science fiction to merge scientific and emotional accuracy. De Rojas was influenced by Bradbury and Asimov, but I find some of the first-person voicing to be sort of like Dostoevsky in Notes From the Underground…. Finally, there is a lightness to the prose in The Year 200. It’s in the tone and syntax. There are so many parentheticals and ellipses that the paragraphs seem like they might fall apart. But they don’t. They remain small, fluid, and steady throughout the novel’s deceptively fast 640 pages.”

—Leo Neufeld, Miami New Times

“There’s a reason that Agustín de Rojas is described as the grandfather of Cuban science fiction. I read all 500+ pages of The Year 200, in an excellent new English translation by Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell, in one awestruck weekend. Set in a future that I absorbed whole-heartedly, written in a racing prose that felt wholly original…. The stakes were high, the plot twists were unexpected, and the vision was compelling. I couldn’t put it down…. The Year 200 works, though, on a higher plane: as a self-reflexive critique of the inevitability of our own futures; as a commentary on our own fears. In 1989, one year before the novel was first published, the Berlin Wall fell and the future changed before our eyes. Yet the fears we had then, of artificial intelligence, of environmental collapse, of sexual liberation, of genetic manipulation, have become more pronounced, and the future feels just as terrifying and just as inevitable. The wisdom of this novel lies in the possibility that these fears too may be smaller and more historically bounded than they appear.”

—Hannah Alpert-Abrams, Pterodáctilo

The Year 200 has been compared to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and rightly so, but de Rojas takes the idea of “body snatching” to an entirely new level…. De Rojas wants to create a hyperaware reader, one who doesn’t accept his story as a kind of entertainment but as a lesson and food for thought. At the end, the author confronts us with some hard questions about what it means to be a rational human and a progressive society.”

—Rachel Cordasco, Speculative Fiction in Translation

 

About the Author

© Yoss

© Yoss

Agustín de Rojas (1949-2011) is the patron saint of Cuban science fiction. A professor of the history of theater at the Escuela de Instructores de Arte in Villa Clara, he authored a canonical trilogy of novels consisting of Espiral (Spiral, 1982), for which he was awarded the David Prize; Una leyenda del futuro (A Legend of the Future, 1985); and El año 200 (The Year 200, 1990), all of which are scheduled for publication in English translation by Restless Books. While he was heavily influenced by Ray Bradbury and translated Isaac Asimov into Spanish, de Rojas aligned himself mostly with Soviet writers such as Ivan Yefremov and the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky . After the fall of the Soviet Union, de Rojas stopped writing science fiction. He spent his final years persuaded—and persuading others—that Fidel Castro did not exist.

 

About the Translators

Nick Caistor is a British journalist, non-fiction author, and translator of Spanish and Portuguese literature. He has translated Cesar Aira, Paulo Coelho, Eduardo Mendoza, Juan Marsé, and Manuel Vázquez Montalban, and he has twice won the Valle-Inclán Prize for translation. He regularly contributes to Radio 4, the BBC World Service, the Times Literary Supplement, and The Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England.

 

Hebe Powell lives and works in London as a freelance translator of Spanish. Born in England, she spent part of her childhood in Argentina and later, a year working and travelling in Spain. She took up a career in physics, completing a PhD in quantum optics at Imperial College London and then as a research scientist in this field. She has also worked as a science teacher. In recent years Hebe has been translating Hispano American fiction.  Her first published translation, also a co-translation with Nick Caistor, was Divine Punishment by the renowned Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez. Hebe is also a researcher in the field of Spanish pragmatics at Birkbeck College; her work currently focuses on the linguistic strategies employed by users of an online marketplace based in Argentina.

 

Books by Agustín de Rojas