The choice of protagonist in this novel is its surest touch, but then Bullough makes so many good choices, as he guides us through the chaos that is one life. Another excellent choice is ending the novel’s central narrative long before the protagonist – a famous rocket scientist – becomes famous or is even recognised as a scientist. What’s best about this book is the presentation of life in pre-revolutionary Russia. Set in the far reaches of Siberia, the novel really brings to the reader a sense of what it was like to exist there and then. The novel’s start is a little clumsy, but the majority of the novel succeeds in everything it set out to do.