The Luminous Depths // by David Herter (First Republic trilogy, book 2)

BRNO, CZECHOSLOVAK REPUBLIC, 1931. Eight years before the Nazi invasions …

At the Theater on the Ramparts, a performance of the world-famous Robot play R.U.R is in rehearsal, attended grudgingly by its author, Karel Čapek. A former master of science fiction, Čapek now devotes himself to the here-and-now, writing small works vital to his beloved Republic. He finds little real pleasure in the proceedings but for the contributions of his brother Josef, a renowned avant-garde artist, and Pavel Haas, a disciple of the late eccentric composer, Maestro Leoš Janáček.
Yet in the midnight streets of the city, Haas has found a luminous enigma; or rather, it has found him, floating down out of the starry sky. Once activated it carries Haas, as well as the Brothers Čapek, the actors, robots and musicians, into a nightmarish world of Occupation, of immense devastation and fecund marvels, of dire transport East, setting in motion a terrifying siege and a phantasmagorical night journey leading from the Theater on the Ramparts to the lonely and now-forgotten cottage of Leoš Janáček.
Newly revised, The Luminous Depths is the second volume in the First Republic trilogy, an epic tale of death and rebirth set in the hinterlands of Europe between the World Wars, featuring a group of real-life artists who clash with the clockwork of Time.
The Luminous Depths has a richness of prose and a density of allusion and ideas reminiscent of authors like Aldiss and Wolfe —and, incidentally, it is a page-turning cracker of a horror story. Outside his homeland, Karel Čapek may be remembered primarily through his legacy of the term “Robot.” It is Herter’s achievement in this novella to lead us through the narrow window of that single chthonic word to a rich evocation of a fragile, doomed period of Central European history”~ Stephen Baxter