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Book Review: ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ by Jaroslav Kalfar (Soon to be adapted by Netflix)

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An unprecedented phenomenon has occurred. A comet has left behind a cloud of space dust that could date all the way back to the Big Bang! The entire world is competing to see who can reach it first. To the shock of everyone, maybe even himself most of all, a Czech astrophysicist named Jakub Prochazka ends up winning the race. But after spending months on his own in a ship racing towards the unknown, Jakub starts to suspect he isn’t actually alone on the ship. Meanwhile, his relationship with his wife has fallen apart, leaving him more alone than ever. Through dives into his memories and deep conversations with a space spider that may or may not be real, Jakub explores what it is to be human and comes to see humanity in a whole new light. See if you reach similar conclusions after reading Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar.

[Warning: Spoilers from Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar and the Netflix film Spaceman starring Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan (adapted from this book).]

The Spaceman of Bohemia and the sins of the father

We have been struggling with generational sin ever since Adam and Eve first ate that apple. Are children responsible for what their parents do? Should they pay the price for their parents’ mistakes? And is a child destined to go bad just because their parents did? There is a lot of debate on this issue and I’ll leave that argument alone for now. 

But Kalfar will not. Jakub’s father did some very bad things as a member of the communist government before the Velvet Revolution. Jakub has spent his life convinced that he is marked by that stain, and working hard to scrub it off. So when the government offers him the chance to embark on a dangerous (and possibly suicidal) mission to the stars, he jumps at the chance. Here is something big enough to finally move his family’s name from the wrong side of history to the right. 

Nothing to do but think in space in Spaceman of Bohemia

So Jakub runs headfirst into the mission to Chopra (the cloud of space dust). But he forgot about some of the bigger implications of running away to space for a year. Because Jakub doesn’t exist in a vacuum, he has a wife. The two of them have been trying to have a baby for some time now without success. Now he’s leaving her behind for an entire year.

And what’s worse, he never even asked her. He just told her he was going. All alone now, he realizes the difference. And he can’t even try to talk to her because she’s disappeared. Feeling completely helpless, Jakub gives into the voice he’s been hearing for a little while. The voice of the giant alien spider that also lives in his ship.

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

Yeah, you heard that right, a giant alien spider. Who loves Nutella by the way? Dubbed Hanus by Jakub, the creature is ancient. It’s been observing humans for centuries, but Jakub is his first true contact. Hanus likes to go swimming through Jakub’s memories and then the two talk about what he sees. Or what’s happening now to Jakub. Or why his life has turned out like it has. They also talk about Hanus and why he is all alone creeping on humans.

And the spaceman doesn’t even have happy thoughts

Hanus and Jakub’s conversations are a little weird at times and Jakub (and me too, honestly) is never fully certain that Hanus is really real. But real or not, Hanus provides a great sounding board for Jakub to try and figure out what has happened to him and why. Hanus provides an unemotional reflection of Jakub’s actions that helps Jakub to grow as a person. Of course, all of this is happening millions of miles away from the people (person really, his wife) whom it all relates to. So even when Jakub has a breakthrough and wants to make amends he can’t. 

The feeling of impotence that permeates the book, even as Jakub manages the colossal feat of reaching a dust cloud on the outskirts of Venus, gives Jakub’s story a very sad and defeatist feeling. Even the events at the end of the book, which I think were meant to show growth and be uplifting, felt sad and lonely to me. 

Spaceman, the upcoming Netflix movie based on the Jaroslav Kalfar’s novel

Spaceman of Bohemia is a thought-heavy book. There is some action but the main point of the novel is reflection, so I was a little surprised that it’s being made into a movie. The movie, titled Spaceman premieres on Netflix on March 1st, 2024.

In a surprising casting decision, the film adaptation features Adam Sandler as Jakub. Sandler is known for his comedy more so than his drama, which is why the choice surprised me. Although I do have to admit that I’ve enjoyed his more dramatic work and think that he might do well with this material.

How the film will handle Hanus with Sandler’s comedic background has me curious though. Hanus is meant to be a serious character but it’d be very easy to make a giant, potentially hallucinated, space spider comedic relief. I hope they don’t take that route though as Hanus’ seriousness and curiosity are the catalysts for Jakub’s own growth. Taking that away would ruin the story.

As always, I highly recommend reading Spaceman of Bohemia before seeing Spaceman. It will give you a deeper understanding of what’s happening in the movie. And I always find it fun to compare the two, see which story I like better, and see how changes improved or detracted from the narrative. If nothing else, it will make discussing the movie with family and friends that much more interesting. Just be ready for some introspection and reflection while reading. And be aware it’s a bit of a downer, have something fun lined up for when you’re done reading to pick your mood back up!

My Rating: 7/10

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar is available most places books are sold. The Netflix film Spaceman starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano releases on March 1, 2024. let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus discord if you plan on reading this novel or watching the film!

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 211 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier