Omon Ra is about aspiration and ambition. Throughout the novel, Pelevin links Omon’s aspiration of becoming a cosmonaut with the Soviet Union’s ambition to transition from an oppressive republic to a more free and democratic one.
On pages 8 and 9, Omon realizes that “only weightlessness could give man genuine freedom . . . in my heart, of course, I loathed a state whose silent menace obliged every individual who came together to imitate zealously the vilest and bawdiest individual among them . . . I realized that peace and freedom were unattainable on earth.”
This passage establishes the linkage between freedom within the state and Omon’s desire to fly. With this link established, Pelevin uses it to comment on the state’s ambition for freedom. At every turn, Omon’s ambition for the freedom of flight is met with opposition that suggests the freedom typically associated with flight is a myth and freedom can’t be achieved.
At his flight camp, Omon encounters a poster depicting a child just like himself who aspires to flight. Upon reaching his goal of space travel in the final panel of the poster, Omon describes his eyes as “filled with some inexpressible anguish.” Immediately following this passage, we get a description of a small toy rocket ship which was built around it’s pilot with no exits as if it were a prison.
These two scenes, combined with Omon’s own story in which his ambition for space travel only brings him to an anonymous, quiet death inside a spaceship described as a tin saucepan, suggest quite strongly that even in the greatest fantasies of freedom and glory there is nothing to be found but anonymity and imprisonment.
Given that this novel was written just after Glasnost, we should question how much Pelevin’s perspective on Omon’s ambitions for glory and freedom applies to the Soviet Union’s ambition for the same things. It is, at the very least, possible that Pelevin views Perestroika and Glasnost somewhat ambivalently and recognizes that the freedom and openness they are expected to bring may very well be a myth.