Hard to be a God (spoilers)

This is a Russian translation so I won’t review the style contained therein. The novel is fairly simple and there’s little to note, other than the sci-fi nature of this adventure story and the communism influenced worldview of the main character. I do think these could be discussed but I’d rather mention the most striking thing, that this novel is a prime example of needing to show something horrible, rather than implying it.

Throughout the novel, Anton (Rumata) is having problems maintaining the emotional distance required to be a neutral observer on a foreign planet, a place called Arkaner, which is medieval Europe on a different planet, essentially. As the country’s culture declines culturally, scientifically, and artistically, Anton is struggling to control his disdain for the planet’s population and their inability to match his expectations. He feels helpless, unable to make the society advance and slowly succumbing to the anger that surrounds him.

The novel ends with his girlfriend being killed, and him subsequently unleashing his rage. An epilogue follows, explaining that he survived and butchered the people responsible, despite that being pointless in terms of the society’s progress, but we don’t see the explosive violence, we do not see Anton finally become as bad as the people around him, and we do not see the devolution of his thoughts. This was unsatisfactory for me, I thought the novel was unfinished. Why did I think that, even though I’m usually comfortable with implied events?

His character arc wasn’t finished. If I had read Anton’s thoughts as he behaved so savagely, I would’ve seen the transformation, rather than have it explained. That’s the rule I’m taking from this ending. If something horrendous is important to the character or story, then the reader must see it. The character arcs and narrative should always take precedence over sensibility.

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