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The Noon Universe is The Verse where many of Strugatsky Brothers' works are set. The name comes from the first novel's title and refers to the "noon" (as in, "the high point") of human civilization in the 22nd century, which the novels describe, and its inevitable dusk. Also, the title was a slight Take That at Daybreak 2250, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel by Andre Norton that the brothers read and disliked with a passion.
The setting is a future Utopia that gets gradually deconstructed as the authors become disillusioned with the Soviet Union. Intellectuals suffer from free time and idle hands turn to dangerous experiments, the Precursors may be guiding the course of events on Earth and it's driving the security services justifiably paranoid, attempts to help out primitive alien civilizations end in tragedy, and a general "Golden Age feeling the premonitions of its own decay" atmosphere pervades. The utopia is never truly deconstructed to the point of destruction (though Word of God says only Arkady's Author Existence Failure prevented it).
The Noon Universe starts with a "Society of Plenty" that averts decadence through a well planned education system that respects the role of the Teacher and strives to teach pupils the values of Love of Labor, Camraderie and Goodness. If you ask a Russian intellectual for a vision of Utopia you're likely to get this as an answer.
Thanks to advances in medical science, Noon Universe Earthlings are capable of near super-human feats and can recover from potentially deadly injuries. As they explore the universe, they discover many Earthlike planets inhabited by humanoids re-enacting various periods of Earth history in the most unpleasant ways possible. This allows for some seriously dark and gritty social satire and the posing of interesting questions: just what can a society of Sufficiently Advanced Earthlings do to prevent the Holocaust or the Inquisition from recurring elsewhere without denying free will, and what effect will interacting with violent cultures have on the Earthlings themselves?
Novels set in the Noon Universe:
- Noon Twenty Second Century (1962)
- Escape Attempt (1962)
- Far Rainbow (1963)
- Hard to Be A God (1964)
- Disquiet (first published as a standalone novel Snail on the Slope in 1966; the original draft first published in 1990)
- Prisoners of Power (1969)
- Space Mowgli (1971)
- The Kid From Hell (1974)
- Beetle in the Anthill (1980)
- The Time Wanderers (1986)
Eleventh novel, The White Queen (as in the chess piece), was planned but never completed due to Arkady Strugatsky's death in 1991.
In addition to the core novels above, following Strugatsky works are considered to be set in the same universe: The Land of Crimson Clouds (never translated from Russian), The Way to Amalthea, Space Apprentice, The Final Circle of Paradise, and several untranslated short stories.
The Noon Universe cycle features these tropes in general :
- After the End / And Man Grew Proud / Scavenger World : The books explore a lot of civilizations whose social, economic and enviromental problems went off the rails in one way or another. However, Earth is not one of these (though there is mention of a few irradiated areas).
- Ascended Fanon: S.W.Pereslgin and co have constructed a time-line of the NoonVerse from the point of view of a 22nd century historian. Analysis of the series events from this perspective featured in the introduction and post-scripts of the entire "The Worlds of the Strugatsky Brothers" book series.
- Cerebus Syndrome
- Fantastic Aesop / Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped : Lots of this. Arguably one of the main points of the whole series.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel
- Government Agency of Fiction : COMCON-1 and COMCON-2. The first one is a fairly standard diplomatic institution for dealing with contacts and political relations between Earthlings and aliens. The second one is a more shady organization, more akin' to a secret service, and is dedicated to monitoring anything deemed as "suspicious research". COMCON-2 might have been inspired heavily by the KGB. There's also a CIA Evil, FBI Good vibe going on between the two agencies.
- Grey and Gray Morality
- Green Rocks / Applied Phlebotinum : Yantarin (i.e. "amberin"), the enigmatic powersource and component of all Wanderer technology.
- Human Aliens : Most of the alien species explored in the books, the most notable being the Cold War-esque Sarakshans, Space Amish Leoniders and Ruritanian Feudal Future Gigandans. All of them also subvert this trope by having lots of cultural and philosophical traditions that would seem pretty alien to Earth humans.
- Humans Are Bastards : But this is often justified or played with in some way.
- Intelligent Gerbil : The lizard-like Tagorians and Ugly Cute dog-like Golovans.
- No Export for You: The English translations aren't bad, but were often translated from the toned-down, censored Soviet versions. So... If you can't speak Russian ? Too bad.
- Planet of Hats : Virtually any planet with a Human Aliens style civilization.
- Starfish Aliens / Precursors / Higher-Tech Species : The mysterious Wanderers and Ark Megaforms.
- Teleporters and Transporters : Called "Zero transport" or "null-T" and used as an actual form of public transport. Apparently available only on Earth.
- The Federation : Earth and its global and interstellar organizations. But it's really more of a grand and pretty cynical Deconstruction of this trope.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: In spades — in Inhabited Island, the protagonist is not only considered ridiculously strong by the Human Aliens inhabitants of a Diesel Punk planet he is stranded on, but apparently can run for tens of miles without stopping, hold his breath for ten minutes, and survive several point-blank bullet shots. Not to mention that he seems completely impervious to most sorts of radiation, even the nuclear one.
- This is actually justified in-universe by the procedure of "fukamization" a.k.a. "bioblockade", which is performed upon fetuses shortly before birth to give them extraordinary health. In Time Wanderers, it is also revealed that bioblockade has a side effect of preventing people from transforming into Homo Ludens.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- What You Are in the Dark
- World Building: The brothers never planned it as a continuous series, just reused the old characters and concepts in their new novels. This explains the many, many inconsistencies between individual novels.
- X Meets Y : The series is essentially something like a Darker and Edgier Deconstructor Fleet version of Star Trek in literary form. With occasional Film Noir overtones...