By pure chance scientists discover a signal from space that could be an statement from rational beings. How can we read this message knowing nothing about the senders? What if we are not even sure whether they exist? “His Master's Voice” is not a typical book. It lacks an adventure plot, yet struggle with the mystery rivets readers' attention more than in many adventure books, especially since the encounter with the unknown provokes elementary questions about the nature of the world, nature of man and reasons for defects of Being.
From the moment I landed on the roof, through all the meetings and conversations, the feeling never left me that I was playing a scientist in a grade-B movie. The feeling was strengthened by the room — or, rather, suite — in which they put me. I cannot remember ever having at my disposal so many unnecessary things. In the study stood a desk of presidential proportions; opposite it, two television sets and a radio. The armchair had controls for being raised, turned around, and lowered, no doubt so that between bouts of mental struggling one could take a little nap on it. Near it there was a large shape beneath a white cover. At first I took this for some piece of gymnastic equipment or a rocking horse (even that would not have surprised me), but it was a brand-new, very handsome IBM cryotronic calculator, which indeed proved useful to me. Wanting to join man more closely to the machine, the engineers at IBM had him work it also with his feet. Every time I pressed the “clear” pedal I expected, by reflex, to drive into the wall — the pedal was so much like a car accelerator. In the wall cabinet behind the desk I found a dictaphone, a typewriter, and also a small, scrupulously furnished bar.
However accurate this generalization may be - and it has been a running complaint of Stanislaw Lem for years - it could never be taken to apply to his own work.
The New York Times Review of Books