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Literature / Disquiet

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Disquiet is a novel by the Strugatsky Brothers set in the Noon Universe. Although originally written in 1965, the authors considered it a failure and reworked it into the standalone novel Snail on the Slope, which was published chapter by chapter between 1966 and 1968. The original draft was first published in 1990, establishing the story as part of the Noon Universe (to which the Snail edition lacked any connection).

The story of Disquiet initially follows the famous pilot and recurring Noon Universe character Leonid Gorbovsky during his visit to Pandora, a planet known for its vast, mostly unexplored jungles. Said jungles stretch over almost all of its landmass, and, thanks to their exotic flora and fauna, are considered a sort of wildlife reserve and a popular vacation spot. When a helicopter crashes in the jungles, both Gorbovsky and the director of the Terran observation base embark on a rescue mission.

The second plotline starts with the description of the life of Athos Sidorov, who went missing in the jungle three years ago and now lives with a tribe of Human Aliens in a truly alien world. Both plots go on to explore the mysteries surrounding Pandora, which in both cases only lead to further mysteries.

Tropes found in Disquiet:

  • Amazon Brigade: The "Female friends" in a scary, dogmatic sort of way. They control the forest, the "Deadmen", and the purple clouds, which may be nanobots. According to them, men have lost all usefulness on Pandora. Even scarier: they may be right.
  • Assimilation Plot: The "Female friends" plan to induct all the women on their world into their ranks, and drown the remaining, now male-only villages. Athos Sidorov is conflicted whether this counts as social or evolutionary progress.
  • Death World: Pandora, even though the emphasis in the book is less on how deadly it is, and more how really, really weird its fauna and flora are. Still, a name like "Armeater" won't come out of nowhere.
  • Garden of Evil: Pandoran wildlife that isn't actively dangerous to humans is rather incomprehensible. Apart from the usual wild beasts you've got insects which seem to be very uncomfortable to come into contact with, and (possibly plant) tentacles that burrow into your skin. On the incomprehensible side, you have, for example, a mile high pillar of slime with a pool at its base that devours anything that falls into it.
  • Human Aliens: The people of the forest are human, even though their civilization and society are pretty alien.
  • Motor Mouth: Every villager Athos talks to. They also tend to repeat themselves. Athos suspects that they aren't stupid, they are afraid of talking about subjects like death or the doom of their village.
  • Organic Technology: The Pandorans' hat. Even though they only have a feudal society at best, they use animals and plants like we use tools. Taken even further with the "Deadmen", which are biological robots.
  • The Singularity: However the Pandoran society looked before the "Uplifting of the Soil" began, it will never turn back this way.
  • Starfish Aliens: According to Gorobovsky, the entire forest might be one alien being. It just hasn't spoken to us yet.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Subverted with the Earthlings, in a way. While they may not understand the forest and its creatures, they can control dead life (a.k.a. machinery), and a scalpel is a scary thing to a people that only can describe metal as "gleaming rocks".
  • The Unreveal: As stated, some things, like the nature of the "City" and the "Female Friends" eventually get explained, while other things remain in the dark.