Review: Solaris

It’s a few days late, but here’s the last part of my Readercon reading list.  Solaris is Stanislaw Lem’s most well known work, although not necessarily his best, and definitely not in the English translation.  From what I understand the English edition is a second generation translation (Polish to French to English) and a few large passages were cut out because it was thought they would be boring.  So the book starts off with one strike against it.

But there is a reason Lem is considered to be one of the greats.  It’s just ironic that a book which is so heavily focused on communication barriers has been so badly served by the same.  What manages to survive the translation process is still a great piece of science fiction.  The story is one of,the best first contact stories.  And it’s probably the best in terms of presenting an alien that truly earns the name.

The creature in question is the living ocean of the planet Solaris.  Throughout the course of the book, the sparse cast of three encounters a series of ghosts and visions that are their only form of communication with the alien…however the purpose of these visitations is never defined.  Instead the alien remains unknowable and human science reaches the limits of its capabilities.

Certainly not a story with a terribly wide appeal, but a masterpiece if you (like me) enjoy that sort of thing.

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