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1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.45 (136 Votes)


„Solaris” is the most famous of Lem's novels.  It had been reviewed many times in various countries and in various languages.  It belongs – probably as no other Polish literary work – to the core of its genre, to the canon: a novel about contact with aliens cannot be omitted  in discussions of world science fiction.  Why has „Solaris” achieved this status?  Probably because the book not only present the most original vision of the alien world known to science fiction, but in the most interesting and emotional way present the drama of cognition and its entanglement in literature, in telling stories that is so inseparable for human culture.

5.00 out of 5 based on 6 ratings6 user reviews.
Lem's visionary depiction of contact Reviewed by Virgil on . One note readers should know beforehand is that the version of Solaris available in English is a translation from Polish to French and then translated from the French into English. For some irresponsible and bizarre reason, publishing house Faber and Faber who own the license have not authorized a direct from Polish translation of Solaris. The good news is that despite this the translators from the French have a good sense of literary style and did a fine job of making it readable and enjoyable, though obviously not as accurate a translation as could be. At first glance Solaris seems hard science fiction. Set in the future after man has explored many systems the main character arrives at the space station orbiting the planet Solaris. Lem lets us know several things up front, the planet is suspected of being an intelligent life form and there is a long history of exploration, strange happenings and accidents that have occurred. By the time Kelvin arrives after almost two hundred years of study only a small team is left to record and study the planet. More than hard science is really at the heart of this novel. There are musings on alien contact and the nature of what is intelligence. Is man really the measure of everything? As events occur, Kelvin the rational scientist succumbs to those most irrational of feelings, love and longing. Ironically, Kelvin, the person sent to investigate the occurrences among the crew is the one who is emotionally effected the most by the visitors that accompany everyone. The genius of the novel is that the visitors are reflections or copy's of each individual in each person's memory. Every character is touched (or disturbed) on a level much deeper than a more conventional alien contact approach. Few readers will fail to imagine who from their own memories would take the form of their own visitor. This is one of the most intelligent science fiction novels I've read in a long time. The story ends up not being about science but about what makes us human, what is intelligence and what may separate us from another life form. Moving, well written and highly recommended. Virgil Rating: 5 5
Incommunicability or Being In the World Reviewed by Thomas M. Seay on . This novel explores the theme of communication. Scientists explore a curious planet, Solaris, whose ocean appears to be an intelligent life-form. Scientists are sent to live on the planet for purposes of establishing contact. Contact is elusive however. What is to be the medium of communication? Even without the tool of verbal language, humans can empathize and communicate to some extent with other mammals. We know that they share common instincts and emotions with us, such as fear, sex drive, hunger, etc. But what about something so "other" as this solarian ocean? Finally indisputable evidence of contact arrives. Solaris is able to tap into the scientists brains and create exact replicas of significant persons from their past. These replicas look and act in the same way as the people they simulate. The main character Kelvin has before him Rheya, an ex-lover who had committed a suicide which he could have prevented. This leads to another problem of communication: how to understand the intentions of this action? Has Solaris created the simulacra as a cruel joke, Or did Solaris do this to please the visitor? Is Solaris just doing it as a kind of experiment? The scientists are tempted to judge the planet according to human behavior, but realize that would be folly. Humans view others, not just Solaris, but any other species, or even any other human being through the prism of their subjectivity. To reach the other requires an incredible effort of may be impossible. Kelvin is at once in love with the succubus and tormented that "she" is not really Rheya, in spite of the resemblance. The succubus is evertyhing that Rheya was to Kelvin because she is nothing but a collection of his memories. Fine, but who was the real Rheya? Just a scattered collection of a few bits of the real Rheya mixed in with Kelvin's own desires, fantasies, and fears. So this raises the question of how possible it is to go beyond ourself to another human being. Another problem raised is that of self-communication. Another scientist in the book, snow, makes the point that humans only know about two percent of their thoughts and that Solaris probably knows more about them than they do themselves. We humans do seem "walled off" and communicability at this stage of our evolution is pretty minimal. Science does seem a valiant attempt to get beyond our fears and fantaises, but as philosophers of science have proven, even our science is fraught with subjectivity. As for understanding ourselves, as Terence Mckenna say, the various schools of psychology sound like medieval hawkers. Or is this seperateness all an illusion as Heidegger and some mystics claim? The difference between subject and object was reinforced by cartesianism. In that case, how to overcome the symptom of a seperated, isolated ego? This is not the place to attempt an answer. However, this book will give you a lot to think about. I recommend that it be read at least two times succesively. You will probably miss many of the finer points during your first read. The time spent on careful readings of this book will reward you with many interesting ideas to ponder. Thomas Seay Rating: 5 5
What makes "Solaris" unique Reviewed by Malcolm J. Brenner on . This is the ONLY novel I have stayed up all night reading. Why? Because Kelvin's dilemma reminded me so much of my love affair with a dolphin. I wish Soderberg hadn't tried to make this into a love story. I wish he had had the balls (and the budget) to show some of the things Tarkovski undoubtedly wanted to, but couldn't, in his extremely uneven 1972 version. The definitive movie of this astonishing, timeless novel remains to be made. Rating: 5 5
Reacting to the unexplainable Reviewed by Victor Emanuel on . Far out in the deepness of the Universe, there is a mirror to our souls. How can you react when confronted with a liquid planet that is thinking – or perhaps not – and is seeing through you? Can you establish a contact with something that you do not understand, but that can understand you? Can you detect reason and logic in liquid structures that are kilometres high, built on mathematical equations by the will of, and grown by the ocean itself? What can you say to an ocean that sees your darkest desires and most intimate memories, but that does not see your pain? Kelvin joins a crew of scientists on Solaris, bent on studying the ever-changing planet, and he soon has to deal with what the planet offers him. His gift comes along with no real joy, and no end to it is in sight. In this attempt to communicate with the humans, the ocean keeps on offering, while not taking anything away and without caring about what would happen next. Despite it fulfilling their desires, the humans do not welcome its generosity. One needs a special mindset to resist the assault. Either for coping with the situation, or to try and end it somehow. Without having been prepared for what could await them on Solaris, the scientists try to enjoy what the ocean offers them, each of them in his own way and in various degrees, whilst trying to discover a way of methodical, meaningful, two-way communication. They search for ways to convey their notions of good, evil and whatever else might be necessary for the planet to really understand the humans, hoping in turn that they will be able to understand its reasons. But the ocean remains incomprehensible, and keeps on making best offers. Some actors in this seemingly endless performance try and repress their memories, others cannot forget, and others have no memories at all. This makes it even more painful for all of them – except for the ocean. The research station, suspended over the thick, strangely-shaped clouds thus becomes the setting for a painful struggle of the humans there to understand their plight. Inebriated and overflowing with grief and sincerity, one of them states that mankind is not really that eager to seek contact with strange, alien civilisations, but is searching for mirrors in which to find its own image. And it happens that Solaris gave them just that. But did these innocent three men really need it? So, the humans and the monocellular planet play a game that goes on and on. As a desperate attempt in the communication crisis, a project is started to sting the ocean with powerful beams of radiation. And the ocean reacts. While standing on a short-lived beach, in front of an ocean that avoids his touch, Kelvin accepts his new desire, which in fact is yet another gift. Building upon great themes, such as human nature, the darkness of the human soul, the status of our memories and the fallibility of science, this book exposes the weakness of the human being in front of an unexplainable entity that offers without demanding anything in return. Rating: 5 5
Rheya Reviewed by Chris Owen on . Rheya Beneath a pale blue sun I woke to find my grey hands trembling and reflected in the glow, by the beckoning window, a long lost lover resurrected. A long and wavering reaching out, a turning of liquid into clay with foaming determined diligence, (at least upon the part of its creator), but mocked by my muddy evolution. She smiled and I welcomed her, knowing it was a dream, expecting to wake and find myself alone and burned beneath a huge red sun, to turn to my responsibilities. What would you do my friend? If you found that thing once lost in the gloating past of difference. Lost forever but standing there; a definite breath of understanding. I fell in love with her, the new her, (after I had committed murder). I did not want the past to recognize me again. I did not want that higher power with its lazy genes and tepid evolution. After she had gone back down into the waters, I went down to say hello to the Ocean. To walk amongst its cathedrals, kick its silly little separate rocks, and wait for its cruel miracles. By Christopher Owen September 30, 2004 Rating: 5 5