BSFA Award nominee 2010, Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee 2010.
Russia, 1946, the Nazis recently defeated. Stalin gathers half a dozen of the top Soviet science fiction authors in a dacha in the countryside somewhere. Convinced that the defeat of America is only a few years away, and equally convinced that the Soviet Union needs a massive external threat to hold it together, to give it purpose and direction, he tells the writers: "I want you to concoct a story about aliens poised to invade earth... I want it to be massively detailed, and completely believable. If you need props and evidence to back it up, then we can create them. But when America is defeated, your story must be so convincing that the whole population of Soviet Russia believes in it – the population of the whole world!"
The little group of writers gets down to the task and spends months working on it. But then new orders come from Moscow: they are told to drop the project; Stalin has changed his mind; forget everything about it. So they do. They get on with their lives in their various ways; some of them survive the remainder of Stalin's rule, the changes of the 50s and 60s.
And then, in the aftermath of Chernobyl, the survivors gather again, because something strange has started to happen. The story they invented in 1946 is starting to come true...
A typically mind-blowing SF novel from one of the genre's literary stars.
Photo: Autograph session with Adam Roberts at Salon du livre 2008 (Paris, France). Photo author: Georges Seguin. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.