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  • Black Rain [first chapter of "The Invincible"]

    The Invincible
    1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.43 (7 Votes)

    invincible lem The Invincible, a class II cruiser, the largest vessel of the fleet stationed at the base in the Lyra constellation, was moving in photon sequence across a quadrant on the very edge of that cluster of stars. The eighty-three men of the crew were sleeping in the tunnel-shaped hibernation chamber on the main deck. Since the journey was relatively short, rather than full hibernation they had been put into a deepened sleep in which body temperature did not drop below fifty degrees. Only automatons were working on the bridge. In the crosshairs of their field of vision was the disk of a sun that was not much hotter than a regular red dwarf. When it filled half the width of the screen the annihilation reactor was turned off. For some time, throughout the ship there was a dead silence. The air conditioning and digital instruments went on functioning without a sound. There was no longer the faint vibration accompanying the shaft of light that had previously been streaming from the stern and, like a sword of infinite length thrust into the darkness, had been propelling the ship forward. The Invincible continued to move at close to the speed of light: inert, mute, and seemingly deserted.

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  • How The World Was Saved

    The Cyberiad
    1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.68 (116 Votes)

    stanislaw lem cyberiad coverOne day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could create anything starting with n. When it was ready, he tried it out, ordering it to make needles, then nankeens and negligees, which it did, then nail the lot to narghiles filled with nepenthe and numerous other narcotics. The machine carried out his instructions to the letter. Still not completely sure of its ability, he had it produce, one after the other, nimbuses, noodles, nuclei, neutrons, naphtha, noses, nymphs, naiads, and natrium. 'This last it could not do, and Trurl, considerably irritated, demanded an explanation.

    "Never heard of it," said the machine.  

    "What? But it's only sodium. You know, the metal, the element..."

    "Sodium starts with an s, and I work only in n."

    "But in Latin it's natrium."

    "Look, old boy," said the machine, "if I could do everything starting with n in every possible language, I'd be a Machine That Could Do Everything in the Whole Alphabet, since any item you care to mention undoubtedly starts with n in one foreign language or another. It's not that easy. I can't go beyond what you programmed. So no sodium."

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  • Newcomer [first chapter]

    Solaris
    1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.36 (11 Votes)

    cover of solarisAt nineteen hundred hours ship’s time I climbed down the metal ladder past the bays on either side into the capsule. Inside, there was just enough room to raise my elbows. After I attached the end of the cables into the port jutting from the side of the capsule, my space suit filled with air and from that point on I couldn’t make the slightest movement. I stood, or rather hung suspended, in a bed of air, all of one piece with my metal shell.

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  • The Seventh Voyage

    The Star Diaries
    1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.71 (51 Votes)

    from The Star Diaries

    It was on a Monday, April second - I was cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - when a meteor no larger than a lima bean pierced the hull, shattered the drive regulator and part of the rudder, as a result of which the rocket lost all maneuverability. I put on my spacesuit, went outside and tried to fix the mechanism, but found I couldn't possibly attach the spare rudder - which I'd had the foresight to bring along - without the help of another man. The constructors had foolishly designed the rocket in such a way, that it took one person to hold the head of the bolt in place with a wrench, and another to tighten the nut. I didn't realize this at first and spent several hours trying to grip the wrench with my feet while using both hands to screw on the nut at the other end. But I was getting nowhere, and had already missed lunch. Then finally, just as I almost succeeded, the wrench popped out from under my feet and went flying off into space. So not only had I accomplished nothing, but lost a valuable tool besides; I watched helplessly as it sailed away, growing smaller and smaller against the starry sky. After a while the wrench returned in an elongated ellipse, but though it had now become a satellite of the rocket, it never got close enough for me to retrieve it. I went back inside and, sitting down to a modest supper, considered how best to extricate myself from this stupid situation. Meanwhile the ship flew on, straight ahead, its velocity steadily increasing, since my drive regulator too had been knocked out by that blasted meteor. It's true there were no heavenly bodies on course, but this headlong flight could hardly continue indefinitely.


    For a while I contained my anger, but then discovered, when starting to wash the dinner dishes, that the now-overheated atomic pile had ruined my very best cut of sirloin (I'd been keeping it in the freezer for Sunday). I momentarily lost my usually level head, burst into a volley of the vilest oaths and smashed a few plates. This did give me a certain satisfaction, but was hardly practical. In addition, the sirloin which I threw overboard, instead of drifting off into the void, didn't seem to want to leave the rocket and revolved about it, a second artificial satellite, which produced a brief eclipse of the sun every eleven minutes and four seconds. To calm my nerves I calculated till evening the components of its trajectory, as well as the orbital perturbation caused by the presence of the lost wrench. I figured out that for the next six million years the sirloin, rotating about the ship in a circular path, would lead the wrench, then catch up with it from behind and pass it again. Finally, exhausted by these computations, I went to bed. In the middle of the night I had the feeling someone was shaking me by the shoulder. I opened my eyes and saw a man standing over the bed; his face was strangely familiar, though I hadn't the faintest idea who this could be.

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