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1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.18 (33 Votes)

"Return from the Stars" tells the story of an Astronaut returning to Earth after a long flight.  Because of Einstein's time paradox one and a half centuries have passed on Earth.  The Astronaut tries to understand and accept the unfamiliar Earthly civilization that gave up risk for the sake of safety and prosperity.  We are presented with a fascinating vision of “Earth as an alien planet” - in order to live there, the protagonist has to experience anew the problems of the meaning of existence, good and evil, freedom and captivity, aggression and love.


5.00 out of 5 based on 1 ratings1 user reviews.
You can't go home again - or can you? Reviewed by wiredweird on . This is a relatively contemplative work by Lem - he saved his blatant humor for other works. Instead, it's a relatively sober story about how thoroughly isolated one can be, even in the midst of a crowd. The "one" in this case is Bregg, an astronaut returned from an interstellar misson. Perhaps he never hoped to be a hero upon return, but it never occurred to him that no one would care. In the hundred-plus years since his departure, humankind had remodeled itself into a people that could not understand why anyone would venture into space, after an era in which such trips were declared pointless expenses. The returning voyagers are welcomed by their gentle hosts, but largely ignored. The first part of Lem's story imagines Bregg's utter disorientation in the physical world, filled with unfamiliar words, sounds, and sights; where even a wall isn't necessarily a wall. He's intelligent and adaptable, so moves on to the second level of disorientation: simply having no idea how to have a conversation when so very few concepts or values are shared. This isolation appears most clearly in his attempts at inimacy. Betrization, the process that made this world the gentle idyll that it is, makes him seem like a ravenous beast to the generation around him, an object of fear no matter what he does or says. The danger inherent in his un-betrizated state appeals to some, of course, but it's an appeal that Bregg does not want to hold. After a time, he finds a woman of this brave new world that can accept him. Then, the deepest level of his isolation surrounds him: he simplay has no place in this society. There is no need for his skills, no interest in the heroism and tragedy of his star travel, and no job that he's competent to do. One or two personal ties are simply not enough to anchor him in this alien place. The very end has a different tone, one that I'll let you discover for yourself - I'll just say that I found it worth the wait. The trip there passes through Lem's evocative writing, including a poetic moment describing the peace and permanence to be found in studying mathematics: "New roads arise, but the old ones lead on. They do not become overgrown." There's also an oddly prescient desciption of Emil Mitke, "... a crippled genius who did with the theory of relativity what Einstein had done with Newton." Back when this book was written, there was no way to forsee Stephen Hawking, today's asymmetric icon of scientific brilliance. This might not be the best intro for someone new to Lem. I'd recommend his lighter writing to start with. Still, it's a good one. wiredweird Rating: 5 5