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The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, novel by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky (1970) - Book review by Kadmon
The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, novel by the Strugatsky brothers (1970)
image © Melville House

Article updated: 2020.02.14

The The Dead Mountaineer's Inn is novel by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky. The book was reviewed by Kadmon.

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Product: Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel (1970)

Title: Аркадий Стругацкий и Борис Стругацкий: Отель «У Погибшего Альпиниста» / Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn

Date of publication: 1970

English edition: Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, Publisher: Melville House, Date of publication: 2015, Translated by: Josh Billings

Hungarian edition: Arkagyij Sztrugackij és Borisz Sztrugackij: Fogadó a Halott Alpinistához, Publisher: Móra Ferenc Könyvkiadó / Kozmosz Könyvek, Date of publication: 1981, Translated by: Földeák Iván

Product type: Novel, 150+ pages, Genre: Modern fantasy, Style: crime story, criminal investigation

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Taste: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises

Reading: Recent (2020.01), it's my first reading of the novel

Rating: Average (2/3 pont), Enjoyment: Average (2/3 pont)

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The The Dead Mountaineer's Inn is a novel by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky, published in 1970. The version I've read is the Hungarian edition, published by Kozmosz Könyvek in 1981. This is a story of an investigation, set somewhere in Scandinavia of the 1960s, where strange things happen to guests trapped in a hotel. The characters are varied, the events are interesting. I liked the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book from the Strugatsky brothers, it was fun from start to finish.

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, novel by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky (1970) - Book review by Kadmon
The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, novel by the Strugatsky brothers (1970) Hungarian edition - Fogadó a Halott Alpinistához
image © Móra Ferenc Könyvkiadó

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Spoiler free review - Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel

When I wanted to read a book, I took this off the shelf, and this was the next after the latest Strugatsky brothers novel I've read. I had the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel because I've collected the sci-fi series of Kozmosz Könyvek.

The The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book is a story of an investigation, set somewhere in Scandinavia of the 1960s, where strange things happen to guests trapped in a hotel. The main character is an investigator who finds everyone suspicious - but maybe he has very good reasons for that... The characters are varied, the events are interesting. The writing style was good. I can't really write anything else beyond these, while still avoiding spoilers. As it's a story from the Strugatsky brothers, it's probably not that much of a surprise that there will be some fantastical elements involved. I liked the novel, and if you have the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book at hand, and don't have anything better to do, you can read it in one sitting, as it's not very long.

Rating: Average (2/3 pont). The prose is good, the story is interesting.

Enjoyment: Average (1/3 pont). I liked reading it.

Chance of reading this again: Very low. There are better books out there to read.

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The Hungarian edition - Arkagyij Sztrugackij és Borisz Sztrugackij: Fogadó a Halott Alpinistához regény

The The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book I've read was the Hungarian edition from Kozmosz Könyvek, a division of the Móra Ferenc Könyvkiadó. The translation of the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel by Földeák Iván seems okay. There are some uncertain elements about the proper spelling of the names of the characters, here you can find some more information about that.

The artwork, printing and binding of the book is okay. The cover art makes it look like it's some kind of futuristic action story, the back cover writes about zombies infesting the hotel - none of that is gives a good idea about the novel. My copy is still in one piece after all those years, although it's true that I care for my books.

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Review with spoilers - Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel

Plot summary

A police investigator goes on a vacation to the mountains, and decides to stay in The Death Mountaineer's Inn. Strange things start to happen, and the investigator is told that's because the death mountaineer who died last year, comes back to visit the hotel, because he had paid two weeks, and only lived here for one week before his demise. There are several guests at the hotel, a rich businessman with his wife, an illusionist with a kid, and some others. Then, one evening, one of the guests, the engineer is found dead, seemingly murdered. There is a strange machine in his room that the investigator confiscates. That same night, an avalanche cuts off the hotel, so the hotel owner asks the policeman to start investigating until the local police arrives.

He starts to question everyone, and we see strange things unfold, until one of the other guests tells the investigator, that one of the other guests, the businessman told him that he is an alien, his wife is a robot, and the engineer was also one of his robots. The enginner is actually not dead, just switched off, and the strange machine the investigator took away is his battery. Then the businessman also comes forward and tells the same thing to the investigator, asking for the machine.

To make things more interesting, the businessman is revealed to work for the local mob, he used his otherworldy abilities to do perfect crimes, then disappear. He tells the investigator he didn't know better, didn't realise he commits criminal acts, and when he found this out, he left the organised crime. He warns the investigator that the mob sent people after him, and if they find him in this hotel, they might kill everybody to get rid of him and the witnesses. While the investigator contemplates on these, the other guests overpower him, and give the businessman the machine. He powers up the engineer, and start to get away from the hotel, when a helicopter arrives, and they gun down the escaping group.

They take away the bodies, but then the helicopter crashes into a lake, hiding any evidence. There are hints that the aliens might have survived. When the guests tell the outside world about the work of aliens, they don't believe them, no matter how much they try to prove their word.

The setting

The story of The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel seems to be set up in our world, in the 1960s. The events are happening in some mountains, probably in Scandinavia, but the exact location is not mentioned, nor does it play a part in the story. The Strugatsky brothers were good in creating generic, but believable settings like this.

The message of the story

If there is a message in The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book, it's probably that you shouldn't tell anyone if you meet an alien, as they won't believe you. Another interesting thought comes up in the end about whether the investigator should do the proper thing and take the alien businissman into custody, or do the morally right thing, and let them leave the planet in peace. Unfortunately, we don't have much time to delve upon this thought.

Otherwise I think it's more of a fun thought-experiment of "what would happen if alien observers were stranded on Earth" rather than any kind of message by the Strugatsky brothers.

The structure of the story

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book is written kind of like a diary written by the investigator. Everything is written in this dry prose, as if the writer would like to stay back and try to be objective about the happenings.

Stupid things

The only thing I didn't like in the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book that the Strugatsky brothers treated the robots just like real people with human feelings and motivations, and I feel that this misleads the readers. This was probably done intentionally, but I don't think we'd need this. These robots are created for manual labour or for engineering calculations, and they are just members of an observation crew, not a first contact team. As they were never intended to contact humanity, I find it strange that the robots were programmed to socialise better than the aliens themselves. Then also, as the crew did not have the intention to start a contact between the civilisations, I'd think they would prefer to stay in the background. But the robot girl was flirting with people, and the robot engineer even went as far as kissing the kid.

While it's not stupid per se, I didn't like that the writers cut the investigation in The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book short by the coming out of the aliens to the narrator. It might have been a more satisfying experience, had the investigator reached this conclusion, instead of being told.

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How does it compare to the other works of the author?

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn book is not the most interesting, nor the most well written work of the Strugatsky brothers. I actually couldn't compare to anything else in their bibliography, it's quite different from their other works. For a similar, but probably more enjoyable read, I recommend The Second Invasion from Mars from the same authors. For another similar novel that I didn't like that much, there's also the Definitely Maybe.

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Possibilities of improvement

The Strugatsky brothers probably should have left more clues about the aliens through the story. Just little things to make us uneasy or question what we have read.

I'd also change, or possibly leave out the romantic interactions of the robots.

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Resources - Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel

WikiPedia: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel

Goodreads: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn

Audio books

I'm not entirely sure about the legality of these.

version 1: Translated by: Josh Billings, read by: Keith Szarabajka, 7.20 hours long

Myron Klein: Arkady Strugatsky Boris Strugatsky The Dead Mountaineer's Inn Audiobook: Audio book.

Reviews with no spoilers

An Anthology of Clouds: 34. The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky: Review article with no spoiler.

Reviews with spoilers

A Bookish Type: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky: Review article with minor spolers.

Alison McCarty: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn, by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky: Review article with minor spolers.

annie66 (for annie's got a clue . . .): Check In to the Dead Mountaineer’s Inn: Review article with minor spolers.

Boris Dralyuk (for Los Angeles Review of Books): “There Is, But We’ll Never Know”: Review article with spolers.

Ezra Glinter (for The Paris Review): (Give Me That) Old-Time Socialist Utopia: Review article with spolers.

Juan Vidal (for NPR Books): 'Mountaineer' Is A Must-Read Of Soviet Sci-Fi: Review article with minor spolers.

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky: Review article with minor spoilers.

M.A.Orthofer (for complete review): The Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: Review article with minor spolers.

Rachel Cordasco (for SF Signal): REVIEW: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky: Review article with spolers.

same article on Rachel Cordasco 's website: Review article with spolers.

Scott Adlerberg (for Criminal Element): The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn: Review article with spolers.

Tobias Carroll (for Electric Literature): The Edge of the Imaginable: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky: Review article with minor spolers.

Reviews in Hungarian

moly.hu: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn (in Hungarian): Review articles.

English version by Google Translate

Movie adaptations

IMDB: 'Hukkunud Alpinisti' hotell (1979): Estonian adaptation.

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Buying the product - Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky: The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel

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Have you read the The Dead Mountaineer's Inn novel from Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky? How do you like the book? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!

 

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