Kalder is a Scottish writer who has lived, worked and travelled extensively in Russia, and I loved his first book. Lost Cosmonaut (about which I have blogged) was packed full of very dry, very dark and very Scottish humour, and Strange Telescopes served up more of the same.
It is the account of his pursuit of alternative views of realities created by Russians – mindsets borne of religious extremism, the awkward conditions of rampant post-Communist capitalism, and the unique Russian psyche. He meets a man who explores Moscow’s underground tunnels, a maker of documentaries about demonic possession, a former policeman-turned-Christ who lives in Siberia with his followers, and a man who built a huge wooden tower for no reason.
The book is brilliantly written, with Kalder’s inquisitive but non-judgemental voice guiding us through not only the strange worlds he encounters but the Russian nation which seems impenetrable in its own way to most westerners. Kalder keeps us interested with his persistence, his ability to make people talk, and his keen eye for quirk, detail and imagery.
Informative, thought-provoking, and hilariously funny when you least expect it, Strange Telescopes will appeal to those with an interest in Russia or the off-beat side of life.