None of Lem's series took so long to write; there were thirty years between the first and last tale of „The Star Diaries” (“The Advantages of the Dragon”). Author's inventiveness in creating fantastic worlds and extraordinary plots seems endless. The famous interstellar traveler Ijon Tichy on the one hand resembles baron Münchausen, on the other – Gulliver. The tales of his incredible adventures bring as many hilarious and improbable events as serious reflections on the paradoxical nature of the world, of man and of his culture - based on contradictions.
Memoirs of a Space Traveler is representative of Mr. Lem in his most fantastic vein. In one of these grotesque and witty tales an inventor has created electronic intelligences that live in iron boxes connected to a central drum of recorded stimuli representing all the experiences that a person may have in a lifetime.(...)
The theme of life as a dream is of course as old as European literature, but it is characteristic of Mr. Lem to recast traditional materials. Often reminiscent of ghost stories and folk tales, his suggestive fables range from the disturbing or horrific to the playfully satiric.
The New York Times Review of Books
[Note: Stories published in Polish as Dzienniki Gwiazdowe (The Star Diaries) were published in English in three volumes: The Star Diaries, Memoirs of a Space Traveler and A Cosmic Carnival of Stanislaw Lem]
This was a great day for the Andrygonians; in all the schools final examinations were just now being held. One of the government representatives inquired if I would care to honor the proceedings with my presence. Since I had been received with exceptional hospitality, I could hardly refuse this request. So then, straight from the airport we went by wurbil (large, legless amphibians, similar to snakes, widely used for transportation) to the city. Having presented me to the assembled youths and to the instructors as an eminent guest from the planet Earth, the government representative left the hall forthwith.
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.
THE TWENTY-FIFTH VOYAGE (fragment)
One of the main space lanes in the constellation of the Great Bear connects the planets of Mufta and Taffetum. On the way it passes Tairia, a rocky sphere that enjoys the worst sort of reputation among travelers, and this on account of the swarms of boulders that surround it. That whole region presents a picture of primordial chaos and danger, the disk of the planet barely shows from behind those clouds of stone, in which you have incessant lightning and thunder from colliding chunks of rock.
A few years ago the pilots running flights between Taffetum and Mufta began to tell of certain dire monsters, which would emerge suddenly from the whirling debris above Tairia and attack rockets, wrapping their long tentacles about them, attempting to pull them down into their murky lairs. Some passengers had been badly frightened, but so far that was all. Then the news spread that monsters had attacked a traveler while he was taking an after-dinner stroll around his rocket in a spacesuit. This was greatly exaggerated, since the traveler in question (a good friend of mine) had spilled coffee on his spacesuit and hung it out the hatch to dry, when strange, writhing creatures flew up and made off with it.