His Master's Voice
His Master's Voice
( 41 Votes )

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.

 

 
Lem's Opinion
Human beings should accept some humility. Sometimes we face phenomena the essence of which we are unable to understand. Even if we are equipped with the most modern scientific apparatus and knowledge we are incapable of resolving whether they are accidental or intentional. Newton once said that with respect to nature we are just children playing with shells on the seashore.
 
Critic's Opinion
At  one point in this fascinating, alarming and occasionally frustrating novel, a scientist involved in a Pentagon-sponsored attempt to decode what may of may not be a "letter from the stars" begins reading great swatches of popular science-fiction stories in hope of generating new ideas.  "Indeed a mistake," remarks the aging mathematician who narrates His Master's Voice.  "He had not read such books before; he was annoyed - indignant, even -expecting variety, finding monotony (...).

 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
 
A Look Inside His Master's Voice
What would happen to us if we could truly sympathize with others, feel with them, suffer for them?  The fact that human anguish, fear, and suffering melt away with the death of the individual, that nothing remains of the ascents, the declines, the orgasms, and the agonies, is a praiseworthy gift of evolution, which made us like the animals.  If from of his feelings, if thus grew the inheritance of the generations, if even a spark could pass from man to man, the world would be full of raw, bowel-torn howling.

Translated by Michael Kandel, Harcourt Brace