Avatar and the Strugatsky Brothers

So it looks like James Cameron’s stunningly successful film has borrowed its key ideas from those Russian science fiction giants, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. The Strugatskys have been long-time favourites of mine (I have all their novels) and I wrote a chapter on them in Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Cameron has apparently borrowed key ideas from a series of novels by the Strugatskys which were later called The Noon Universe. A few overlaps:

Name of planet: the green and lush Pandora

Name of humanoids: Na’vi in Avatar, Nave in the Strugatskys.

Temporal setting: 22nd century.

But Cameron is a subtle operator, since he decided to change the inhabitants from dog-like creatures to more cat-like ones. And the hero who visits is a marine with the name of Jake Sully instead of the biologist Mikhail Sidorov – but that would be a little too much of a giveaway.

It might be said that Cameron hasn’t had a good idea that he didn’t read somewhere else.

Novels in the Noon Universe series:

Noon: 22nd Century

Escape Attempt

Far Rainbow

Hard to be a God

Disquiet -> Snail on the Slope

Prisoners of Power

Space Mowgli

The Kid from Hell

Beetle in the Anthill

The Time Wanderers


16 thoughts on “Avatar and the Strugatsky Brothers

    1. The Cold War has much to answer for. They were and are hugely popular in the USSR and eastern Europe. Most of their stuff you can track down since it was translated in the 70s and 80s. I found them through my local municipal library, of all places.

  1. I’ve been a fan of Strugatsky bros for about 10 years now and have read all their books. The only overlap I’ve noticed is the planet’s name. In the novel, there were no natives living on it and the story line was completely different. If you ever decide to get yourself familiar with their works, make sure to start with “Inhabited Island” it’s quite damn worth it)).

      1. Their “Doomed City” remains my favorite book of all times. After Strugatsky bros I’ve been through 100 different authors and none of them came even close to their level of writing. I enjoyed Heinlein and Scott Card (the first Ender’s book, the rest were average). Which one did you like the most?

        BTW after Nathan passed away, his brother wrote two more books (way too deep IMO).

  2. Interesting! I have yet to see Avatar, but this development makes it more exciting. I love the Strugatskys as well, and currently am enjoying re-reading some of their works and reading some for the first time – I have their full bibliography in 12 tomes. Lucky for me, I can read them in the Russian original, as I was born and lived in Russia until I turned 13.

    Dimitry – I agree, Doomed City is absolutely amazing, a masterpiece hands down. I started re-reading it yesterday, am only 50 pgs in this go-round. thankfully I haven’t read it in years, so it is almost new to me – I remember loving the novel’s mysterious unfurling, the ancient and strange setting. Freaking awesome. Would recommend it to anyone – I do believe there is an English version. Reading it earlier today, I was thinking about translating it to English if there is not, but that’d be a hell of a job and i doubt there is any market for this sort of thing.

  3. First, I want to salute all Strugatsky’s fans from here, I also liked very much their novels, especialy “The II-nd invasion of Martians”.
    “Doomed City” was strange enough to catch my attention, but it was too pessimistic, with one expedition who goes nowhere.
    About “Avatar”, i say that script-writer put inside this movie all archetypes that he can find in SF books, maybe too many, that’s why this movie was so appreciated. But it was a block-buster, it was meant to be easy understandable. The books writen by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky was not. That’s why the readers like you and me are few.

  4. I don’t know how I would see the world today without Strugatsky’s brothers novels. Even if the main theme of their work is the contact between humans and extraterrestrial civilizations, the most poignant feeling you remain after finishing each novel is love for human beings. With it’s horrible mistakes, weaknesses,historical errors but unique moments of grandeur. Comparing any fragment of their works with J Cameron is a nonsense. And I respect Cameron as a movie director, but he has no profundity.
    Sorry that these huge authors are less known across the ocean.

  5. The Strugatsky brothers and Cameron are all great story-tellers. To criticize any of them is silly. And would someone please translate the Doomed City into English please…?

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