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"Spufford cunningly maps out a literary genre of his own . . . Freewheeling and fabulous." ―The Times (London)
Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche. It's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.
Red Plenty is history, it's fiction, it's as ambitious as Sputnik, as uncompromising as an Aeroflot flight attendant, and as different from what you were expecting as a glass of Soviet champagne.
SKB-245. There’d be no more glorious eccentricities, like Brusentsov’s trinary processor at the University of Moscow, the only one in the world to explore three-state electronics. There’d be no pushing outward at the frontier of the achievable. There’d be no design any more, properly considered; just slow, disconsolate copying. Only a fool would choose safety on these terms. Surely Kosygin can be brought to see it? Tactfully. Effectively. ‘Minister –’ But Lebedev has begun to sag. He peers at
called P53, isn’t working. Here’s one of them. And into it, after fifty years of delicious Kazbek smoke, there flies one more random molecule of goo, and it travels straight to ras to scramble the vital G into C, and it arrives just in time, too, to evade the editorial enzyme and get copied into a new cell. And it’s not all right. The new cell with mutant ras in charge of it is a tumour unbound, freed from the body’s safety systems to multiply and multiply, unstoppably, selfishly, altogether
meantime, why don’t we have a look at this chart. As you can see, the average wage for an industrial worker in the USA is round about a hundred dollars a week – which comes to, say, a thousand roubles at the tourist exchange rate. What can you buy for that? Well, you could get yourself two men’s suits. Or seventy-six of those saucepans we just saw. Or 417 packs of cigarettes. Or –’ ‘Hang on,’ said Fyodor. ‘Excuse me for interrupting, but how much of this hundred dollars does this “average
limits had departed. It had been acknowledged now, once for all, that life was not just the forward surge of a crowd, everyone singing and shouting, everyone moving with that tumbling impetuousness that in Soviet film made even showing up at the factory gate look like a spontaneous march on the Winter Palace. It had been admitted that other moods, other tones of voice, existed and were necessary. And with that, the rapture was gone. The rapture had been real. He made himself remember that. He
abundance. But before it had quite finished – alas, there was never enough time to do things in strict sequence, and the year’s work tended all to proceed via estimates, later corrected – the zaiavki, the ‘indents’, had already been sent out to the enterprises. On these printed forms, the enterprises requested the supplies they would need for next year’s production. But the enterprise, of course, did not yet know how much it was going to be asked to manufacture. So management would estimate how