Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev was a Russian and Soviet geologist who specialized in the study of Siberia and Central Asia. He was also one of the first Russian science fiction authors. In his native country, Obruchev is best known as the author of two perennially popular science fiction novels, Plutonia (Плутония, 1915) and Sannikov Land (Земля Санникова, 1924). During 1954, he completed an extensive geographical study of the Nanshan Mountains in China on the basis of his own and previous expeditions to the region and spent the last few years of his life working up a geological study of the mountains.


Sannikov Land, aptly considered as one of the best scientific romance novels of all time, takes the readers on a fascinating journey to a lost world. It narrates the adventures of five travelers who set out to find missing comrades and stumble upon a mysterious land whose existence in itself was doubtful.

The five courageous travelers set out to find a mysterious island that was seen for the first time, amidst the ice of the Arctic, by Yakov Sannikov. After crossing interminable ice-fields, they finally found Sannikov Land, or better yet, “discovered it for science.” This land, or rather the crater of a huge volcano, was home to the flora and fauna of a remote geological period. There the travelers met men of the Stone Age and their contemporaries. The expedition unraveled the island’s secret and unveiled the reason for the disappearance of the Onkilon tribe, which, at one time, used to live in North Siberia.

Being a geologist himself, Obruchev paints a colorful picture of every scene, fascinating yet realistic, and completely mesmerizing. The plot and idea of behind the story are extremely plausible. Any reader who has any experience with similar locations would undoubtedly find the description very accurate. The surroundings, weather, events and problems are all heavily based on Obruchev’s own experience, and are thus very realistic.

An excerpt from Sannikov Land by Vladimir Obruchev

The detail with which the surroundings, people, rituals, events and emotions are described is also par excellence. Such meticulousness makes it quite easy for the readers to imagine the story in their heads as it progresses. The style of writing is more report-like, detailed and highlighting all scientific aspects wrapped in the narrative.

Sannikov Land also portrays human behavior beautifully. It depicts the Onkilons, surrounded by their superstitions, and the Neanderthals, savage in all aspects, in terrific detail. The traditions of the Onkilons, their superstitious beliefs, their heavy dependence on God and their ancestors, their indecisive chief, their shady shaman and the fickle-minded population – all of them show what humans were before the scientific era. The characters introduced are memorable, and every one of them contributes to the story.

The book also brings the painful realization of how advances in science and technology have caused damage to other animals. The book paints the picture of an isolated island, and the vibrant and lush fauna that exists there – including mammoths, cave bears, woolly rhinos and other prehistoric creatures. The huge difference in the effect of gunshots in the beginning and towards the end of the story might raise questions on our role in the extinction of several forms of life.

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In conclusion, Sannikov Land describes a thrilling adventure of the quest to find an unknown and mysterious land. It easily wakes the sleeping adventurer and ignites curiosity in all readers. The air of mysticism and suspense around the plot of this novel keeps the readers on the edge, as they eagerly see the story unfold line by line, chapter by chapter.

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