December 27th, 2002 Comments Off on Solaris

As Solaris was made into a new movie, I decided to read the book again before seeing the movie. I still remember how the book made a strong impression on me in the first time I read it, and reading it again I realized that it had not lost its power. Stanislaw Lem’s style is almost unparalleled in the science fiction and fantasy realms. His masterful use of language, his characters, and his pacing of the narrative make reading Solaris a truly enjoyable experience. Even knowing what was going to happen did not take the pleasure away.

Solaris is Lem’s most famous book, and the story is well know to most science fiction fans. Written in 1961, it has not become dated like most books dealing with science, mostly due Lem’s believable depiction of the future. The book is named after one of its characters, which is a planet, or rather, his sole inhabitant: a sentient ocean covering almost the whole surface of the planet. A scientist arrives in an scientific outpost (created with the purpose of attempting communication with Solaris) to investigate strange things that are happening in there. One of the station’s occupants died under mysterious circumstances, and the remaining personnel is acting in very unusual ways. He soon finds himself involved in bizarre events, trying to fathom what is going on. His quest for understanding will take him beyond the limits of human endurance.

Solaris is more than a simple science fiction tale. Lem uses the story as the basis for profound reflections on various subjects including the nature and limits of science, the motivations of the human species, and the nature of the self. The seemingly long digressions in the narrative disguise considerations on those topics and make for a very stimulating reading.

In short, Solaris is both science fiction and philosophy at their best, fresh and challenging. I couldn’t recommend it more.

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