“The Cyberiad” and “Robot's tales” (in the US volumes entitled “The Cosmic Carnival of Stanislaw Lem and "Mortal Engines" were also published) is a witty blend of traditional tales and science-fiction - there are “constructors” instead of wizards and magic; apparent miracles turn out to be the outcome of exceptional engineering capabilities. However, greedy kings, cruel and hungry for power, stem from our very own world. Just as among us, there live naive healers of the world, who believe it takes only one good idea to save humanity. In robots' states nothing good results from that. The case with us – suggests Lem – would be very similar, since neither evil nor (fortunately) good cannot be eradicated. And we will never give up telling tales.
One day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could create anything starting with n. When it was ready, he tried it out, ordering it to make needles, then nankeens and negligees, which it did, then nail the lot to narghiles filled with nepenthe and numerous other narcotics. The machine carried out his instructions to the letter. Still not completely sure of its ability, he had it produce, one after the other, nimbuses, noodles, nuclei, neutrons, naphtha, noses, nymphs, naiads, and natrium. 'This last it could not do, and Trurl, considerably irritated, demanded an explanation.
"Never heard of it," said the machine.
"What? But it's only sodium. You know, the metal, the element..."
"Sodium starts with an s, and I work only in n."
"But in Latin it's natrium."
"Look, old boy," said the machine, "if I could do everything starting with n in every possible language, I'd be a Machine That Could Do Everything in the Whole Alphabet, since any item you care to mention undoubtedly starts with n in one foreign language or another. It's not that easy. I can't go beyond what you programmed. So no sodium."
The book can be read on two levels. Read simply for an entertainment, the stories could appear to a superficial reader as an overdose of a good thing. However, once a more sophisticated reader perceives their philosophical and moral implications and becomes aware not only of the author's daring imagination but also of the depth of his philosophical insight, the fables acquire a new dimension.
"The New York Review of Books"
Lem's explosive inventiveness is immediately apparent in "The Cyberiad", aptly subtitled "Fables for the Cybernetic Age", a cycle of tales focusing on the adventures of two intelligent robots, named Trurl and Klapaucius, who are master builders ("constructors") of computers and who sally about the cosmos meeting challenges, solving problems and being, by turns, cybernetic hero-sages, and all-round nuisances and fools. The tales are sometimes wildly funny, full of intellectual slapstick and outrageous puns (frequently playing on mathematical and cybernetic vocabulary).
In "The Cyberiad" the paradigm taken from physics is treated in a rather humorous way. One can see this quite well in the short story "The Dragons of Probability" that makes use of the nomenclature of quantum mechanics. Dragons that are, dragons that aren't, virtual dragons - all of this are games from the rich apparatus of modern physics according to which there is no such thing as "nothing" (i.e. vacuum) - instead there are zillions of virtual particles. Theoretical physicists always liked this book. A certain Polish physicist translated "Dragons of Probability" to English in order to show it to his Western colleagues - all of this happened quite a long time ago, when only a few books of mine were published in the West.