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I understand

“Eden”, written in 1959, opens the period of Lem's mature science-fiction.  What makes us read this book with interest today?  Certainly author's exceptional imagination plays an important role here; rich visions of planetary culture and nature are presented with just the right amount of suspense.  Hence, we get to know the mysterious planet step by step – with a tension that naturally accompanies all real history of exploration.  Political system of the planet must have reminded readers of Orwell's visions, particularly in the 1950s.  Yet the most important issue seems the skepticism with respect to the possibility of mutual comprehension:  the very difference of respective technologies prevents newcomers and locals from understanding each other.

5.00 out of 5 based on 2 ratings2 user reviews.
Fun beyond Solaris Reviewed by Michael Battaglia on . I've only read three books by Lem counting this one and while nothing so far has bypassed Solaris as his absolute masterpiece, for me it's a step up from the strangely dense Fiasco. As in those two books the theme here is the one that Lem seems to count as his favorite, that we should not assume that because we are smart and can get into space and across stars, that we can automatically "understand" any alien life that we come across, or even start to fit what we see into established human preconceptions. Fortunately this is an excellent theme to explore and one rarely dealt with in SF, so Lem easily finds new wrinkles to explore every time he writes about it, even if the conclusions wind up being nearly the same every time. In this novel, six explorers crashland on the planet Eden and while trying to fix their spaceship and get off they find that the planet is home to a civilization that seems to make absolutely no sense. They keep coming across odd artifacts, a strange factory, a graveyard, weird villages, all of which they try to quantify through human theories that they wind up discarding anyway because they can't hope to explain what they're seeing. Most of the book is just strange, unexplainable event piled on strange unexplainable event . . . perhaps because I read it in spurts this approach never becomes wearying, or maybe it's the constant combinations of interactions between the six characters, three of which comes across as fully rounded human beings (The Captain, the Doctor and the Engineer, the only one who seems to have a proper name, oddly enough) while the Chemist, the Physicist and the Cyberneticist mostly just take up space and are there for the main three to argue with, that keeps the plot moving along and engaging. In the end there are explanations of a sort, but they seem anticlimatic and feel a bit like a cop out, a concession to readers not really prepared for the honest answer that maybe there really is no way to understand something utterly alien. All told, Lem's imagination and presentation of his argument is impressive and mostly entertaining, even if you have to read Solaris to get a better idea of what he's trying to say. Michael Battaglia Rating: 5 5
The Futility of Communication Reviewed by Plamen Nenchev on . Eden is a beautiful and highly disturbing tale of first contact with alien intelligence. The novel has unfortunately been disregarded and overlooked throughout the years in favour of its more famous "sibling" – Solaris. The topic is a recurring one in Stanislaw Lem's universe; contact with an alien intelligence is ultimately doomed from the start. Humans and aliens are so different from each other that they do not have a common frame of reference to understand each other from. Lem has pursued this thread throughout his works with varied success: from the beautifully crafted Eden, Solaris and the Invincible, which have equal parts adventure and philosophy, ideas and action to carry them, to his later and overly philosophical His Master’s Voice and Fiasco, which are as readable as a pile of bricks (I have personally tried and failed to finish His Master's Voice on three separate occasions). Eden is the earliest of the five works; with the most anthropomorphic and hence the most identifiable alien civilisation, which also makes its portrayal the most chilling and disturbing of all. Doublers live in a totalitarian regime which has achieved the ultimate stability; by denying its existence, it has made sure that no one can topple it. Society is an endless eugenic and social experiment of nightmarish proportions. It is not accidental that Lem has decided against giving the human crew proper names and opted for generic designations of their professions instead. They serve more as a canvas for reflecting natural human puzzlement and confusion about the grotesque strangeness of the Doubler world than as actual human beings. The imagery is raw and powerful, the ideas and associations with actual human totalitarian societies haunting. First-class classic Stanislaw Lem. Rating: 5 5