Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are widely considered the greatest of Russian science fiction masters, yet the novel they worked hardest on, the one that was their own favorite and that listeners worldwide have acclaimed their magnum opus, has never before been published in English. The Doomed City was so politically risky that the Strugatskys kept its existence a secret even from their closest friends for 16 years. It was only published in Russia during perestroika in the late 1980s, the last of their works to see publication. The Doomed City is set in an experimental city whose sun gets switched on in the morning and off at night, a city bordered by an abyss on one side and an impossibly high wall on the other. Its inhabitants are people plucked from 20th-century history at various times and places and left to govern themselves under conditions established by Mentors whose purpose seems inscrutable.
Andrei Voronin, a young astronomer taken from Leningrad in the 1950s, is a die-hard believer in the Experiment, even though his first job in the city is as a garbage collector. As increasingly nightmarish scenarios begin to affect the city, Voronin rises through the political hierarchy, with devastating effect.