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Solaris – stanislaw Lem

27 Jul

655_595lem-solaris-book-coverThere is Science Fiction and then there is Science Fiction that everyone should read and this is that.  It’s right up there in terms of fascinating books of an otherworldly nature.  Lem was all about true Sci-Fi, and not, as he put it, in a vicious broadside to American authors, about poorly written and lucrative books.

The plot is nicely sparse which is welcome, as the ideas that are dealt with are of quite a philosophical bent.  Kris Kelvin arrives onboard a scientific research station that orbits the planet Solaris.  He find the two inhabiting crew members exhibiting strange behaviour, it soon becomes apparent that there is something going on that will lead Kris to confront his past on Earth from ten years ago, light years away in an alien environment.

For a short book (214 pages), it’s a surprisingly deep experience, exploring many issues central to the thoughts of humanity since the dawn of time.   Our attempting to define and understand the unknown, abstract concepts of higher beings and the incomprehensible ideas that we could never hope to conceive of…it’s all very existential, ranging in discussion through both religious and nihilistic existentialism.

The smallness of humanity in the universe the frightening knowledge that we are insignificant when judging ourselves by higher forms of life is a stark and refreshing contrast to all the bombastic rhetoric used in TV shows and films.  Yet this is contrasted with a feeling that we should look at our uniqueness as a race and feel good in our own humanness, no matter how fragile we feel when looking at the infinities of space.

That isolated feeling of being painfully far away from home, leaves the reader to dwell on the questions Lem asks,  questions of what is it to be a human and indeed what is a human in the grand scheme of things? What is our true place in the universe and are we incapable of observing things from anything but our own point of view?

This idea of coping with something we can’t classify let alone understand enough to quantify, something fascinating and yet a little bit frightening, is reinforced in some compelling if slightly over long descriptions of the features and the history of the planet Solaris. Every characteristic observed and described by the intrepid explorers of this captivating world is described in metaphors that are easily graspable and there in, is the crux of the matter, how do you observe something with such utter detachment as to give a clear view to a reader of what it actually is not what it is like?
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With the many ideas to dwell upon, helped with a perfectly judged atmosphere that is at once melancholy, haunting, dark, brooding and totally compelling; helps give the book a totally alien feeling that few can fully claim to do.  To sum up it’s a thoughtful, gentle paced part love story, part metaphysic concept book that is full of silences and complex ideas but which conveys them in such a way as to make them easy to grasp and think upon.
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35 Comments

Posted by on 27/07/2013 in Sci-Fi

 

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35 responses to “Solaris – stanislaw Lem

  1. Alastair

    27/07/2013 at 17:03

    I do believe they made this into a film with Clooney in it. It flopped. Which, from your description tells me why. It is not a book that is designed to be made into a film. It is designed to be a thought provoking story which you can’t do with visuals. You have to let your mind do all the work.

    Not a book I would necessarily go for. My thoughts of sci-fi are more … Greg Bear, Alan Dean Foster, James Kahn. Odd to have Bear with the other two lol.

    Good review

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    • Ste J

      27/07/2013 at 17:11

      I have to read those bear books you gave me sometime soon…getting this radio show up will get that going though. I will explore the other two as well.

      Hollywood ruin everything, they changed the ending as well and that just belittles the whole thing. There is a 1972 Russian film which is supposed to be really good although I haven’t watched it. The questions posed really are epic and it is always a good back up if you fancy something different…I will pop those names into Amazon when I have got around everyone’s sites…which I am determined to finally do today!

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      • Alastair

        27/07/2013 at 18:42

        Thanks. I’ll keep an eye on that see if drops in price and stick it in my Kindle … okay so it wasn’t that much. It’s downloading to my kindle as we speak. May be something to look at once P&P is finished. And Jane Austen is going to be the face of £10 in 2017

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        • Ste J

          27/07/2013 at 20:26

          Really, I did not know that! Austen is a good choice and some would argue, more relevant than some other faces that are on our currency. Good man, it’s a short read as well, so even if it isn’t your thing, it won’t take you long to get through it.

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  2. sakuraandme

    27/07/2013 at 20:21

    Hey. Cool review!

    You made me want to go out and buy the book! Lol. That’s not bad considering I’m not really into that type of book. 🙂

    Hugs and I’ll try go back to sleep! 🙂
    Hugs to you. Paula xx

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    • Ste J

      27/07/2013 at 20:39

      Yay! I am all about the inspiring, mixing up genres is great…there are some amazing books in stuff I never thought I would read…I guess that is the beauty of books. I’ll bring you that liquorice and Pepsi Max around then hehe.

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  3. thejerseygal®™

    28/07/2013 at 01:31

    I think this book was made into a movie. I think I remember watching the beginning and waking up for the closing credits. It seems your review suggest it made for a better book than film. Sometimes, leaving the visuals in the readers minds is a better idea than watching them poorly unfold on the big screen at the hands of a poirly adapted screenplay and a narrow minded director.
    I love your review, and the ease of its pace and how you do not spoil the book for readers in giving away too much info.

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    • Ste J

      28/07/2013 at 19:40

      I do hear it polarises opinions…I will have to watch the 1970’s Russian version…that has atmosphere to it apparently. I loathe giving stuff away in reviews…I even leave half the blurb out of this one lol. I will always do my best to reveal as little of the plot as possible other than what is on the blurb. Glad you like my style.

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      • thejerseygal®™

        29/07/2013 at 00:40

        I’ve read book reviews in newspapers and enjoy yours much, much more!!

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        • Ste J

          29/07/2013 at 17:33

          You know I don’t come with an agenda, namely that I am from the same publishing house as them…book reviewing in the newspapers is as misleading as everything else where people are paid to give opinions.

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          • thejerseygal®™

            29/07/2013 at 18:48

            Wow I did not know publishers pay reviewers….I much prefer your reviews anyway.

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            • Ste J

              29/07/2013 at 18:51

              I would like to get paid but not be affiliated with any publishing house…I want my integrity intact, which may put me at disadvantage. I shall keep on writing them just as long as I don’t run out and that would be a challenge!

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              • thejerseygal®™

                29/07/2013 at 20:41

                A website with ads might bring you money. Admirable that you’d rather not have your pockets lined by publishers.

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                • Ste J

                  30/07/2013 at 17:58

                  I am hoping the book I am..should be..writing will make me some money so I can keep the blog a non commercial thingy…unless it is a book ad then i would be up for that of course.

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                  • thejerseygal®™

                    30/07/2013 at 18:37

                    What kind of book?

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                    • Ste J

                      30/07/2013 at 18:40

                      well I wanted it to be a proper literary book but my writing voice is a bit to jaunty, so I’m going for more of a comedy with wordplay and the odd bit of quirkyness.

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                    • thejerseygal®™

                      30/07/2013 at 18:43

                      Nice! I wish you well with it and I admire your bit of quirkiness as it speaks of who you are and that I’d buy that book!

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                    • Ste J

                      30/07/2013 at 18:46

                      Why thank you, I have started it but things get in the way, but when I start properly I will be working on it to obsession. I have a desire to be self published within a year of starting proper. Then I will hopefully bully some publishing house to give me money, lol.

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                    • thejerseygal®™

                      30/07/2013 at 18:51

                      I have been working on and off for ten years on my book….about a family secret….and it’s exhausting which is why I stop working on it…and research on a character has been hand wringingly brick walled! I am sure your book will be awesome!

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  4. angela

    28/07/2013 at 03:28

    Thank you for this review…I oft forget to check Sci-Fi section of favorite used book shop, but will next go for this one. Besides, it inspired the talented Andrei Tarkovsky, whom I am not a bit obsessed after watching his Stalker film on the big screen a few weeks ago.

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    • Ste J

      28/07/2013 at 19:53

      I am woefully backward with films, so will need to check him out, he seems very highly rated. I am only just getting back into Sci-Fi after a long hiatus…it does help that I have found some great books to ease me back in.

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  5. Robyn Lee

    28/07/2013 at 04:19

    ooo – i am not typically drawn to sci-fi Ste J, but you had to know you’d get me with this concluding line, ” a thoughtful, gentle paced part love story, part metaphysic concept book that is full of silences and complex ideas but which conveys them in such a way as to make them easy to grasp and think upon.”

    It’s not too out there then? I really like existential philosophy in general, and you know I like to ‘ponder’ all these deep life mysteries – so maybe? I need something to keep my mind off all the icky medical stuff I will be into over next few months ~ starting tomorrow actually. Thank you for a great review … I’m interested! x much love, Robyn

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    • Ste J

      28/07/2013 at 19:23

      well sometimes when I write, I do have a few people in mind who I think will like the book….

      It isn’t out there, well only from a location from Earth point of view. It’s one of those books that makes interesting statements and before you realise you are already into the depths of the big questions. Being that it is short as well, you will read it fairly quickly methinks.

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  6. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    28/07/2013 at 23:17

    just bought the Kindle version…looking forward to reading this book!

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  7. Robyn Lee

    29/07/2013 at 03:29

    ok ~ then… kind friend of mine…. if “youthinks” it’s a worthy read … I will give it a whirl! Can be a nice distraction during my blog break and medical icky stuff! Will surely let you know when I’ve completed it…. maybe can get a copy around this place tomorrow, and get started while I’m getting all these tests overwith! Love to you from NYC! ~ 🙂 RL

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  8. Christina ~

    29/07/2013 at 23:31

    With such high praise and thought provokingly enticing thoughts elicited by said book and put forth by you to us….how could I not add this to the very near top of my TBR list? You always tempt me to try new books/adventures I’d not previously thought of….and I thank you for your wondrously unique Ste-style which always shines through your words to further tempt… xxxx ~

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    • Ste J

      30/07/2013 at 17:50

      I shall send it across to you in a while and you can sink into the mysteries of life. I shall now attempt to out do this review with another book (yet to be determined) that is close to my heart and watch with interest how your to read order changes…You do inspire me to read more obscure books to find those oh so cunningly hidden gems that I can bring to you. xxxx

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  9. LuAnn

    02/08/2013 at 19:52

    I am ready for a book that will carry me away for awhile. I need a break from medical research and I am thinking this may be the ticket. Thanks Ste J. 🙂

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      03/08/2013 at 18:12

      I am all for helping you take a break, my friend or for helping with your research if you need it. I do like to throw in a bit of epic, now and again, I know you love that!

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  10. shiningstar85

    09/08/2013 at 21:06

    OK then, on my wish list it goes. still find philosophy a bit heavy going, but the book is the sort of length I’d prefer.

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    • Ste J

      11/08/2013 at 08:26

      it’s big concepts are framed in a reader friendly way, nothing to complex. It’s the reader’s own thoughts that unlock the complexity it contains. It always makes me happy to add to anyone’s list.

      Like

       

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