Sputnik Caledonia (2008) is a novel by Andrew Crumey, for which he won the Northern Rock Foundation Writer’s Award. It depicts a Scottish boy who longs to be a spaceman, is transported to a parallel communist Scotland where he takes part in a space mission to a black hole, and returns to the real world in middle age, possibly as a ghost. The novel is in three “Books”, with the central one (set in the alternate world) being longest, predominantly serious in tone, while the outer sections are shorter and more humorous. The title refers to the Russian Sputnik program and the alternative name for Scotland, Caledonia, suggesting the idea of Scotland as a satellite state of the Soviet Union.
Robbie Coyle, nine years old at the start of the book, lives in Kenzie in Scotland’s Central Belt in the early 1970s. He dreams of going into space; but because of his father’s anti-American, pro-Soviet views, he wants to be a cosmonaut rather than an astronaut. He picks up an Eastern European radio station called Voice of the Red Star, imagines it to be a telepathic signal from another planet, and begs to be taken there.
Nineteen-year-old Robert Coyle lives in the British Democratic Republic – a