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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.

 

5.00 out of 5 based on 1 ratings1 user reviews.
Gulliver's Journeys in space Reviewed by Shadowfire on . "The Star Diaries" cannot be easily classified, probably because of its varied content. In any case, this isn't science fiction. This is philosophical satire, although it isn't clear what precisely it satirizes. The theme isn't consistent. The book is intended as a recollection of a spacefarer's unbelievable journeys, with each story being a separate adventure. Each is numbered, but the enumeration contains gaps, and, in any case, the numerical order isn't the chronological (the chronological order is 22, 23, 25, 11, 12, 13, 14, 7, 8, 28, 20, 21). If one does read the stories in the chronological order, a certain evolution becomes clear: the earlier stories are light-hearted social satire with Ijon Tichy as the book's extremely close-minded but nevertheless courteous and polite hero romping about on alien planets ("Due to the retardation of the passage of time, my sneeze lasted five days and five nights, and when Tarantoga again opened the little door, he found me nearly unconscious with exhaustion", 12th Journey); but with each new journey the reader is bound to notice that the backgrounds begin to become more and more Earthlike, the cheerful pseudo-sci-fi camouflage is dropped, and Ijon himself becomes a convention designed to deliver the plot's message. Some of these later journeys begin to drag quite impressively (20 bored me to tears - especially when I realized that it's a direct copy of a shorter story in the "Further Reminiscences"), but from time to time deliver an incredibly potent message (13 and 21 being the most prominent examples - both dealing with personal freedoms). Of the earlier romps, 7 (a multiple time loop causes Ijon to live and re-live every part in a scandal over who should go and repair the rudder), 12 (Ijon is stranded on Amauropia with a time machine, and, by speeding up the evolution of a race of local cave people, is forced to live through all the tribulation a tribe, a feudal kingdom, a theocracy, a Republic, and a militaristic regime can offer), and 14 (Ijon tours a planet whose high-tech amoeboid natives have a titanic taboo centered about the concept of "scrupts") seem to be the most fun. The faults? As I mentioned, some of the later stories drag quite a bit, especially when the reader isn't prepared for a lesson in philosophy. Those looking for "Hitchhiker's Guide" sort of fiction will only be able to stomach about half the book. From time to time, Lem slips into writing entirely in and about fictional (read - "nonsensical") things. Of course, not all the nonsense is really non-sense: Lem relied on plays of words and puns for some of the humor, and most was probably lost in the translation (I was lucky to read it in the next best thing to the original Polish - Ukrainian). Nevertheless, this is a startling, mind-bending, and superbly original read which should not be missed. Shadowfire Rating: 5 5