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Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem

Fiasco (original 1987; edition 2000)

by Stanislaw Lem

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506720,102 (3.99)18
Authors:Stanislaw Lem
Info:Futura (2000), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Tags:science fiction

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Fiasco by Stanisław Lem (1987)



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this is a fantastic book. extremely imaginative, it evokes amazing feelings of cosmic travel and despair. it has wonderful argumentation and weird man machine interactions. it felt very "plastic" in the sense of it's detailed material descriptions. very otherworldly for sure. ( )
  eeio | Nov 24, 2012 |
There's a really good story in here struggling to free itself from a detailed treatise on alien first contact. It succeeded just well enough to keep me reading, but it was a close run thing. ( )
  hoddybook | May 8, 2011 |
It took me three attempts to read this book. The first time, I got bogged down in the middle of the first chapter, waiting for something to happen. Instead, I was treated to fascinating descriptions of one rock formation, then another rock formation that is quite similar but not totally identical to the first rock formation, then yet a third rock formation that is even more similar but not totally identical... The second time, I picked up the book forgetting it was the one with the mind-numbing geological fetish and took it on vacation. Only then did I realize and yet I tried it again - another failure. So I decided to look up some reviews and see what I was missing. I really wanted to like the book, as I had thoroughly enjoyed Lem's Peace On Earth. I found many reviews saying, yes, the first chapter is really boring but just stick with it.

Armed with this knowledge, I braced myself for a third attempt on the summit. This time, I mainly skimmed the first chapter, making sure I didn't miss anything. Turns out you can go through the entire chapter and only read the first few and last few pages and you'll only miss lots of dry recitation of the geology of Titan.

After surviving the first chapter, I approached the "good" part of the book with gusto. And it certainly picked up the pace, but then I think this might have been true had the entire rest of the book consisted only of blank pages. I found myself enjoying it more but still... not that much. The thing is that the book has some really interesting ideas, and in generally a really great story. Unfortunately, it gets completely crushed by the long stretches of exposition (we're talking pages at a time) on subjects that in the end really don't bear much on the plot. Some might say this is part of world building, but it must be used much more sparingly than this. I felt the actual plot of the book might have filled up less space than that excruciating first chapter. Part of this could be blamed on having to read it in something other than Lem's native tongue, but I honestly can't see how those chapters of exposition could have been more lively in any language. Perhaps Klingon.

So I give it three stars. Like I said, the story is good enough that I can't call it a bad book. But I feel that perhaps it wasn't worth the chore of sticking with it, especially three times. ( )
  brightcopy | Apr 13, 2011 |
I thought this was pretty darn good. While there are important differences, it felt like a much more successful attempt to address the story of Arthur Clarke's Rendezvouz with Rama: man travels to meet with aliens, has a hard time communicating, finds surprises and danger, has a hard time figuring out what the heck's going on.

Lem populates his human ship with a small but truly diverse crew of scientists, pilots, a physician and catholic priest. Each of these characters at times plays an important role in the story. They bring diverse experiences, values, and personality types to a very stressful situation, allowing the dynamics of the interactions among the crew to play an important role in the novel. Lem's Quintans are one of the better conceived aliens I can remember, in surprising ways completely different than humans, and yet in other ways similar.

One of the more memorable things about the book is a superb first chapter that serves as an extended prelude and could easily be published as a stand alone short story. Set a couple hundred years before the rest of the story, it is a truly stunning tale of an attempted rescue mission on Titan.

Another thing I liked about Fiasco is that Lem makes you think. There are questions that are left unanswered, but the reader is given enough evidence to draw conclusions. Oddly enough, the identity of the protagonist is one of these unanswered questions (although the inclusion of the first chapter makes it pretty clear who the reader is supposed to assume the character is).

Fiasco is obviously a novel written during the cold war, and is clearly meant as a warning about mankind's future. And while in some ways it feels dated, we certainly cannot afford to forget how easily a reasonably intelligent species can get caught up in a downward spiral leading to very real possibilities of extinction. ( )
2 vote clong | Dec 26, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156306301, Paperback)

The planet Quinta is pocked by ugly mounds and covered by a spiderweb-like network. It is a kingdom of phantoms and of a beauty afflicted by madness. In stark contrast, the crew of the spaceship Hermes represents a knowledge-seeking Earth. As they approach Quinta, a dark poetry takes over and leads them into a nightmare of misunderstanding. Translated by Michael Kandel. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:40 -0400)

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